Right now you are probably expecting to read about some incredibly exotic and equally expensive tropical fruit that is unlikely to appear on the shelves at Supervalu anytime soon – but no! In fact the fruit in question is the humble apple.
That’s right, recent research has found that just two apples a day can help keep bad cholesterol away! And unlike statins, apples also raise good (HDL) cholesterol and contribute to weight loss.
Dr Bahram H. Arjmandi, director for the Centre for Advancing Exercise and Nutrition Research on Aging at Florida State University even goes as far as to state “I consider apples a magic food. I buy a bag a week and try to eat two per day. I am convinced this is what I should do if I want to remain healthy.”
The cholesterol lowering properties of apples appear to be due to their high levels of pectin, a type of soluble fibre found under the skin, which binds to cholesterol in the gut and transports it out of the body. We have known about the benefits of pectin for a number of years but many researchers, including Dr Arjmandi, have been surprised by recent research demonstrating just how effective apple pectin actually is at removing excess cholesterol from the body.
In one recent study involving 160 women between the ages of 45 and 65 it was found that women who ate 2 apples per day on top of their usual diet experienced a 23% decrease in LDL “bad” cholesterol, and increased their HDL “good” cholesterol by 3–4%. This level of reduction would be very hard to achieve using either drugs or exercise.
Many people do not realise that most of the cholesterol in our body does not come from food but is, in fact, manufactured in the liver. Therefore reducing high cholesterol foods will not always impact on overall cholesterol levels as the problem may be simply an overproduction of cholesterol in the body itself. Statin drugs, such as Lipitor and Crestor, reduce cholesterol by blocking an enzyme needed to make it. The problem is that statins can be hard on the liver, which is why people who take them must have a blood test periodically to make sure their liver is not becoming irritated and inflamed. It is also suggested that these drugs can reduce levels of the essential nutrient Co enzyme Q10 in the body. This nutrient is vital for energy production in the body and low levels (as can occur in individuals taking statins) can lead to fatigue and muscle weakness. Some healthcare professionals also believe that whilst statins may reduce cholesterol, a potential cause of heart disease, they can negatively impact on the heart muscle due to their impact on CoQ10 – remember that the heart is a muscle that requires an awful lot of energy to keep beating!
Dr Arjmandi puts it very simply. “The liver is one of the largest organs in the body, and it can remain pretty functional if only 50 percent of it stays healthy. You do not see an abnormality in the blood unless you do substantial damage to the liver. Drugs have their place, but if you have to check your liver enzymes, that means the drug is doing something not so good for you, and I don’t understand why we would go for drug therapies when eating two apples a day reduces LDL cholesterol so effectively. Eat apples and you not only don’t harm your liver, but you substantially benefit your health.”
So why aren’t apples prescribed for high cholesterol as avidly as statin drugs? Statins account for about 6.5% of all drug sales in the U.S and earn drug companies about $26 billion per year. You would have to sell an awful lot of apples to make that kind of money!
The even better news is that apples are not alone in their cholesterol lowering prowess. So if you suffer from high cholesterol or want to prevent it in the future try adding as many foods as you can from the list below to your daily diet:
- Walnuts, almonds and other nuts
- Oats, oatmeal and oat bran
- Oily fish
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
Pretty easy really!