New findings from Finland suggest that an apple a day can keep you healthy.
In a study of more than 10,000 men and women, individuals who consumed more of plant compounds called flavonoids--especially one type that is most abundant in apples--were less likely to die from heart disease or develop lung cancer, asthma, stroke and diabetes. Compared to other fruits and vegetables, apples showed the strongest and most consistent effects.
Flavonoids, which are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as in tea and red wine, are thought to boost health in part by combating oxidation, a process in which cell-damaging substances called free radicals accumulate. Oxidative damage can be caused by outside factors, such as cigarette smoking, or by factors on the cellular level. Oxidation is suspected of increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and several other diseases.
The results of this current study suggest that the risk of several chronic diseases--including heart disease, stroke, lung and prostate cancer, type 2 diabetes and asthma--declines as the consumption of flavonoids rises. Most of the benefits seemed to stem from quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that is plentiful in apples, although several other flavonoids seemed to be protective as well.
A greater consumption of apples, which are the main source of quercetin in Finland, and onions, which contain a flavonoid called kaempferol, were both linked to a reduced risk of dying from heart disease. And the risk of stroke was 30% lower in people who ate the most kaempferol than in those who ate the least. And in men, higher levels of quercetin were linked to lower risks of lung cancer and prostate cancer.
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