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An apple a day really does keep the doctor away, scientists say

Dec. 17, 2013
Courtesy of the British Medical Journal
and World Science staff

An ap­ple a day for all adults aged 50 and over would pre­vent or de­lay around 8,500 vas­cu­lar deaths such as heart at­tacks and strokes eve­ry year in the U.K. alone, a study in­di­cates.

The ef­fect is si­m­i­lar to giv­ing statins, or cholesterol-lowering drugs, to eve­ryone over 50 years who is­n’t al­ready tak­ing them, says the study in the Christ­mas edi­tion of The Brit­ish Med­i­cal Jour­nal.

The re­search­ers con­clude that the Victorian-era pro­verb “an ap­ple a day keeps the doc­tor away” is able to match more wide­spread use of mod­ern med­i­cine, probably with few­er side ef­fects. The au­thors stressed that no one cur­rently tak­ing statins should stop, al­though by all means eat more ap­ples.

Us­ing a math­e­mat­i­cal mod­el, the Uni­vers­ity of Ox­ford re­search­ers an­a­lyzed the ef­fect on the most com­mon causes of vas­cu­lar mor­tal­ity of pre­scrib­ing ei­ther a statin a day to those not al­ready tak­ing one or an ap­ple a day to eve­ryone aged over 50 years in the U.K.

They cal­cu­lated that of­fer­ing a daily statin to 17.6 mil­lion more adults would re­duce the an­nu­al num­ber of vas­cu­lar deaths by 9,400, while of­fer­ing a daily ap­ple to 70 per­cent of the to­tal U.K. popula­t­ion aged over 50 years (22 mil­lion peo­ple) would avert 8,500 vas­cu­lar deaths.

“This study shows that small di­e­tary changes as well as in­creased use of statins at a popula­t­ion lev­el may sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce vas­cu­lar mor­tal­ity in the U.K.,” write the au­thors.


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An apple a day for all adults aged 50 and over would prevent or delay around 8,500 vascular deaths such as heart attacks and strokes every year in the U.K. alone, a study indicates. The effect is similar to giving statins, or cholesterol-lowering drugs, to everyone over 50 years who isn’t already taking them, said the study in the Christmas edition of The British Medical Journal. The researchers conclude that the Victorian-era proverb “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is able to match more widespread use of modern medicine, probably with fewer side effects. The authors stressed that no one currently taking statins should stop, although by all means eat more apples. The University of Oxford researchers set out to test how a 150 year old proverb might compare with the more widespread use of statins in the UK population. Using a mathematical model, they analyzed the effect on the most common causes of vascular mortality of prescribing either a statin a day to those not already taking one or an apple a day to everyone aged over 50 years in the U.K. The researchers assumed a 70% compliance rate and that overall calorie intake remained constant. They estimate that 5.2 million people are currently eligible for statin treatment in the UK and that 17.6 million people who are not currently taking statins would be offered them if they became recommended as a primary prevention measure for everyone over 50. They calculate that offering a daily statin to 17.6 million more adults would reduce the annual number of vascular deaths by 9,400, while offering a daily apple to 70% of the total UK population aged over 50 years (22 million people) would avert 8,500 vascular deaths. “This study shows that small dietary changes as well as increased use of statins at a population level may significantly reduce vascular mortality in the UK,” say the authors.