The old adage, “an apple a day keeps doctor away,” is very popular and when scientists and researchers looked into the truthfulness and factual evidences of these claims they were in for a surprise. It has been proven already that people who consumed low amounts of fruits and vegetables are at an increased risk of having cancer. In a study conducted in Shanghai, it was found that women who took adequate fruits and vegetables in their diet were at a reduced risk of breast cancer. According to different studies, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides protection against cancer and heart diseases along with a plethora of other diseases some of which are cataracts, diabetes, Alzheimer disease and asthma.
Phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables
There are various chemicals present in fruits and vegetables known as phytochemicals such as carotenoids, flavonoids, isoflavonoids, and phenolic acids which impart the beneficial activities to the fruits and vegetables. These chemicals also have antioxidant properties. Major disease conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer majorly occur because of an oxidative stress and plant phytochemicals provide protection against oxidation. Hence, it has been clearly deduced that Phytochemicals may inhibit cancer cell proliferation, regulate the inflammation and immune system, and also provide protection against lipid oxidation. Apples are a rich source of flavonoids and phenolics and have been the main dietary source of these phytochemicals in many countries including America, Finland and Netherland. Apples are also found to be rich in antioxidants.
Chemicals present in apples
Apples contain a large concentration of flavonoids. Several other antioxidant compounds present in apples are quercetin, catechin, epicatechin, procyanidin, coumaric acid, chlorogenic acid, gallic acid and phloridzin. Some of these chemicals are present in much higher amounts in the apple peels than in the apple flesh.
The anti-cancer activity of apple
Studies have shown that consumption of apples can significantly reduce the risk of lung cancer in both men and women. The flavonoids obtained from apples help in the prevention of the oxidative damage caused to the DNA, lipids and proteins and help prevent the cancer from spreading. The peels of apple have rich antioxidant activity which makes them helpful in inhibiting the growth of the cancer cells in case of liver cancer and colon cancer cells. In fact one serving of whole apple along with its peels is equivalent to almost 1500 mg of Vitamin C. Apples have high antiproliferative activity and the unique combination of phytochemicals present in apples play an instrumental role in inhibiting the growth of tumor cells. It has also been studied that different apples have shown different degrees of anticancer activity; for instance where Fuji apple extracts showed 39% inhibition, red delicious apple extract showed inhibition up to 57%. When apples are used without peels, there is a marked decrease in its anti-cancer activity. The phenolics present in apples have a marked protective effect on the oxidation of low density lipids. Apple juice is one of the richest sources of dietary antioxidants. Apples have also shown a considerable reduction in the viability and inhibition of the growth and spread in cells involved in breast cancer and prostate cancer.
Some other studies have also shown that consuming one or more medium sized apples was associated with a significant reduction in the risk of cancer at various sites including oral cavity and pharynx, esophagus, colorectal, larynx, breast, ovary and prostate.
Other health benefits of apple
Apple is also associated with a marked reduction in the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, myocardial infarction or cardiovascular disease death. Apple consumption is also linked to generating healthy lungs. It is also related with a reduced risk of asthma and hypersensitivity of bronchi. Apple use in daily diet is also found to have profound effects in decreasing the risk of diabetes. People who take apple regularly are exposed to reduced risk of Type II Diabetes. Apple peels have a chemical called as quercetin which is known to bring down the risk of Type II Diabetes. Apple consumption can also play an important role in overweight women.
How to consume apples
Since the apple peels contain higher concentrations of many phytochemicals, the peels are endowed with more bioactive benefits including anti-cancer and antioxidant activity. Hence, apples should be consumed whole. The red delicious apples have more health benefits when compared with other varieties. Apples can be consumed in the form of different apple preparations and apple juices but care should be taken to use the whole apples along with the peels.
Boyer, J., & Liu, R. H. (2004). Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits. Nutrition journal, 3(5).
Hyson, D. A. (2011). A comprehensive review of apples and apple components and their relationship to human health. Advances in nutrition, 2, 408-420.
Reagan-Shaw, S., Eggert, D., Mukhtar, H., & Ahmad, N. (2010). Antiproliferative effects of apple peel extract against cancer cells. Nutrition and cancer, 62(4), 517-524.
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