The old Welsh saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” recently got some scientific support. Researchers at the University of Oxford found the proverb is able to match the vascular benefits of modern pharmaceuticals without the harmful side effects.
In a study published in the British Medical Journal, the researchers constructed a theoretical model of the effects of prescribing either a statin drug or a daily apple to all adults in the UK over 50 years old.
They found that prescribing an apple a day would prevent or delay around 8,500 vascular deaths such as heart attacks and strokes every year in the UK. Those results were slightly lower but very similar to the projected results of prescribing statins to everyone over 50. But when you factor in the side effects of statins, apples are the big winner.
In the U.S., the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) recently released new guidelines on preventing cardiovascular disease by better assessing risk and by managing cholesterol, lifestyle, and weight. Unfortunately, the new guidelines will make a whopping 44% of men and 22% of women qualify for statin therapy. That will insure bigger profits to the drug industry which already collects more than $25 billion annually for statins.
Statin therapy is based on the misguided belief that lowering cholesterol saves life. It does not. Half of people dying from a heart attack or stroke have low to normal cholesterol levels.
The University of Oxford researchers calculated that offering a daily statin to everyone over 50 in the U.K. would reduce vascular deaths by 9,400 while eating an apple would avert 8,500 deaths.
However, side-effects from statins would produce an epidemic of other health problems. They predicted that the statins would lead to 1,200 excess cases of myopathy (muscular weakness), 200 cases of rhabdomyolysis (rapid breakdown of muscle tissue), and an astounding 12,300 diagnoses of type 2 diabetes caused by statins.
The researchers couldn’t think of any side effects from apples other than distress caused by a bruised apple, or the theoretical risk of identifying half a worm inside.
Earlier research from Ohio State University found eating one apple every day for just four weeks can lower blood levels of oxidized low-density lipoprotein – commonly called the “bad” LDL cholesterol – by 40% in healthy, middle aged people.
And a Dutch study of over 20,000 people showed eating lots of apples and other white fleshed fruit can lower the risk of stroke by 52%. Each 25 gram per day increase in white fruits and vegetable consumption was associated with a 9% lower risk of stroke. An average apple is 120 grams.
All great reasons to eat an apple and pass on the statin.
To learn more about the statin and cholesterol myth read Dr. Stephen Sinatra’s book The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease-and the Statin-Free Plan That Will