Researchers Say Apples Pack a Powerful Antioxidant Punch

Organic apples in a market. Apples are packed with anti-oxidants and may have other health benefits. (Miguel Villagram/Getty Images)
Scientists continue to confirm that there may be validity to the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

New findings reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry provide the first evidence that apple consumption extends the average lifespan of test animals by 10 percent. The study supports previous research, which has strongly suggested that antioxidants inherent in apples can protect the body against the damage of free radicals.

The new results were obtained with fruit flies, which commonly serve as stand-ins for human subjects in hundreds of research investigations each year.

In the study, Zhen-Yen Chen and colleagues from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Tianjin Jianfeng Natural Product Company in Tianjin, China, found that apple antioxidants, known as polyphenols, extended the average lifespan of fruit flies and also helped preserve their ability to walk, climb, and move.

In addition, antioxidants reversed levels of multiple biochemical substances found in older fruit flies, which are markers for age-related deterioration.

“Apple polyphenols are an excellent source of dietary antioxidants,” Chen and his research team report in the research paper.

This study comes on the heels of another recent study involving human subjects conducted at Florida State University and reported on this year at the Experimental Biology 2011 conference in Washington, D.C.

The research evaluated the long-term cardioprotective effects of the daily consumption of apples over six months among post-menopausal women. It was found that the women who ate apples experienced a 23 percent decrease in LDL cholesterol, which is known as the “bad cholesterol.” Daily apple consumption also resulted in the lowering of lipid hydroperoxide levels and C-reactive protein among those women.

Antioxidants are known to be abundant in a variety of fruits and vegetables (especially those that are brightly colored, such as apples, blueberries, broccoli, and tomatoes) and can lower our risk of heart disease and cancer, and possibly other conditions that can develop from the proliferation of free radicals as we age.

In addition, scientists have calculated the antioxidant power of an apple alone is equal to more than 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C, according to the American Institute of Cancer Research.

Michael Dabney, a former bioscience communicator at the University of California, San Diego, is a freelance writer based in Chula Vista, Calif., specializing in science and education.