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Wednesday, 21 February, 2001, 01:38 GMT
Apple juice 'protects the heart'
Apples include a beneficial compound
An apple juice a day could keep a trip to the heart doctor away, says new research.

A team of researchers at UC Davis School of Medicine in the US have found that drinking apple juice appears to slow down a process that can lead to heart disease.

Compounds in apples and apple juice called phytonutrients act in much the same way that red wine and tea do to delay the break down of LDL or "bad" cholesterol.

When LDL oxidises, or deteriorates in the blood, plaque accumulates along the walls of the coronary artery and causes atherosclerosis (a dangerous thickening of the artery).

A very moderate intake of apple juice has the potential to reduce risk factors for heart disease in a fairly short period of time

Dianne Hyson, UC Davis School of Medicine
Lead researcher Dianne Hyson, a dietician, said: "Previous studies have shown that eating fruits and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of coronary artery disease.

"But this is the first clinical study to show the potential benefits of active compounds in apple juice and apples."

Although the researchers expected to see positive results from drinking apple juice, they were surprised to find beneficial effects after only six weeks.

Ms Hyson said: "A very moderate intake of apple juice has the potential to reduce risk factors for heart disease in a fairly short period of time.

"This small diet change might play an important role in a heart healthy diet."

Study results

During the 12-week clinical study, 25 healthy adult men and women added either 12 ounces of 100% apple juice or two apples into their daily diet.

Half of the participants drank 100% apple juice daily for six weeks while the other half ate apples including the peel.

The varieties of apples the group consumed included Fuji, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Red Delicious.

After six weeks, the subjects switched groups.

Each participant kept a detailed five-day food record every two weeks, and researchers monitored the subjects' body weight throughout the 12-week study period.

There were no significant differences in the intake of dietary fat, cholesterol, total carbohydrate, sugar or calories.

Researchers measured how long it took for LDL cholesterol to be broken down before the study and at each six-week interval - this is known as the oxidation lag time.

Lag time measurements are commonly used to determine how long it takes for cholesterol to oxidise or break down when exposed to certain chemicals.

A longer lag time indicates a greater delay in the start of oxidation, which is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

The lag time increased by 20% after six weeks among those drinking apple juice.

Eating apples also showed potential health benefits, but not such a dramatic effect.

A spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation said: "The BHF says that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables is important and that five portions of fruit and vegetables daily, including fruit juices, will provide the body with a good supply of potent antioxidants.

"This new research certainly gives credence to the rhyme 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away!'"

The research is published in the Journal of Medicinal Food.

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