An Apple a Day keeps the Doctor Away
This was a phrase that many of us heard when we were young; I can certainly remember hearing my mother say it. So, it was with interest that I saw the headline in the paper ‘An apple a day keeps cancer away’. In fact the article was saying that apples may ward off colon cancer and they were quoting work published by the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research.
The researchers first of all worked with cancer cells in tissue culture where they showed that certain polyphenols called Procyanidins, activated signalling pathways in the cells that led to cancer cell death. They then fed rats with this extract from apple skins after they had been given an injection of a substance known to cause colon cancer. Rats fed the apple skin extract had only about half the number of cancerous lesions in the colon as a control group of rats. Dr. Raul, one of the researchers commented that the results may lead to new treatments to combat tumour growth. He also said "For now, our work suggests that eating the whole apple, including the skin, might offer some anti-cancer benefits".
Earlier studies had already shown that Quercetin, found in apples, onions and tea could prevent colo-rectal cancers.
Another study at Cornell University in New York State found that ‘100g of fresh apple had as much anti-oxidant power as 1500 mg of Vitamin C. Antioxidants act to prevent cancer by blocking the cell damaging effects of free radicals. The lead researcher Dr. Rui Hai Liu commented, "Our results indicate natural antioxidants from fresh fruit could be more effective than a dietary supplement. Eating fruits and vegetables is better than taking a pill."
In March this year (2005) the same group reported that apple extracts prevented mammary cancer in rats and the higher the dose of apple extracts the more effective the prevention. The apple extracts also inhibited cancer growth in rats that already had mammary tumours. This particular study led the Daily Express to report: "An apple a day could slash the risk of breast cancer say researchers. But eat several and it could cut it even more”". Whether this conclusion is justified is debatable but for the first time in my life I have some sympathy with a conclusion reached by the Daily Express.
In fact population studies have found that a high consumption of apples is linked with a reduced risk of some cancers, asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Apples are a rich source of antioxidants but the amounts vary considerably according to the variety of apple. The anti-oxidants are also concentrated in the skin but there are some in the flesh. Storage does not affect the concentrations but processing considerably decreases anti-oxidant activity.
Conclusion? Get eating those apples and since you need to eat the skin then if possible choose organic.