Researchers in the United Kingdom (UK) conclude that the 150 year old public health message: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is rooted in science. The study performed at the BHF Health Promotion Research Group at Oxford University modeled the effect of an apple a day on vascular mortality. The model covered the entire UK population aged 50 years and over. Causes of vascular mortality are cerebrovascular disease, ischemic heart disease, heart failure, and abdominal aortic aneurysm. An apple a day was found to match the health benefits of a more widespread use of statins, with predictably fewer side effects. The research published in the British Journal of Medicine takes into account people who are already appropriately taking statins to reduce their risk of vascular disease.
Using mathematical models researchers tested how a 150 year old proverb might compare with the more widespread use of statins in the UK population. They analyzed the effect on common vascular mortality of prescribing either a statin a day to those not already taking one or an apple a day to everyone over 50 years of age. 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
Dr. Adam Briggs of the BHF Health Promotion Research Group at Oxford University said: “The Victorians had it about right when they came up with their brilliantly clear and simple public health advice: An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” It just shows how small changes in diet can make a real difference in preventing heart disease and stroke.
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Wayne Coolidge Jr. M.Ed., CHES