Does an apple a day keep the doctor away? © Dan Bright

Does an apple a day keep the doctor away?

Full of fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, can apples really keep you healthy enough to keep you out of the doctor’s office?

Apples are a decent source of fibre, vitamins, minerals and flavonoids (which may help to prevent cancer). But are they any better than fruit in general, and does daily consumption have a measurable health benefit?

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Per 100g, apples have more fibre than melons, mangoes or grapes, and twice as much vitamin A as pears. But apples have less folate than blueberries and less vitamin C than oranges or bananas.

A 2015 study used diet survey data for 8,000 adults in the US and compared the number of doctor’s visits, overnight hospital stays and prescription medicines, between apple-eaters and non-eaters. The study found that those who ate at least one apple per day (either whole, or as part of other foods) were slightly less likely to need a GP visit or medication.

Crucially, this difference disappeared once the researchers adjusted for socio-demographic and health-related characteristics. In other words, it is not that eating an apple a day means that you don’t get sick, rather, the study found that healthy people tend to eat more apples. This might be because the apple-eaters were also making other lifestyle choices with a more direct effect on their health.

Ultimately, focusing on any one food for its unique health benefits is the wrong approach. A healthy diet includes a wide variety of different fruits and vegetables.

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