Apples, Cancer & Strokes

Apple Phytonutrients Found to Provide Anti-Cancer and Anti-Oxident Benefits

ATLANTA (June 22, 2000) - How is this for a new twist to an old adage: It's the phytochemicals in the apples and apple juice each day that keep the doctor away.

Although it has long been known that apples provide anti-oxidant and health benefits, "this concept is different," says Dr. Rui Hai Liu, Cornell assistant professor of food science and lead author on the Nature article. Says Liu, "Scientists are interested in isolating single compounds -- such as vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene -- to see if they exhibit anti-oxidant or anti-cancer benefits. It turns out that none of those works alone to reduce cancer. It's the combination of flavonoids and polyphenols doing the work."

An anti-oxidant is one of many chemicals that reduce or prevent oxidation, thus preventing cell and tissue damage from free radicals in the body. "In this research, we have shown the importance of phytochemicals to human health," says Liu's collaborator, Chang Yong Lee, Cornell professor of food science at the university's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y. "Some of the phytochemicals are known to be anti-allergenic, some are anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-proliferative. Now I have a reason to say an apple a day keeps the doctor away."

The researchers found that vitamin C from apples is only responsible for a small portion of the anti-oxidant activity. Instead, almost all of this activity in apples is from phytonutrients.

The Cornell researchers found that eating 100 grams of fresh apple with skins provided the total anti-oxidant activity equal to 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C.

What this study shows is the combination of phytochemicals plays a very important role in anti-oxidant and anti-cancer activity, and the real health benefits may come from a phytochemical mixture (found in foods).

Using colon cancer cells treated with apple extract, the scientists found that cell proliferation was inhibited in vitro. The researchers also tested the apple extract against human liver cancer cells and again found inhibition of the growth of those cells.

This study is just the latest to demonstrate the health benefits of components found in apples and apple products. In 1999, researchers at the University of California at Davis (UC-Davis) confirmed that these important phytonutrients pass through to the apple juice.. They also found that apple phytonutrients from fresh apples and apple juice inhibited the oxidation of the LDL or bad cholesterol. According to UC-Davis researcher Eric Gershwin, M.D., "What our research demonstrates is that you can add apple juice onto the list of fruits and vegetables which are good for you because they clearly contain a significant amount of these important plant components." That research was published in the April 16 issue of Life Sciences.

Other recent studies on the health benefits of apple products have been published in the past few years, all of which continue to solidify the important role that apples, apple juice and applesauce play in a healthful diet.

An Apple a Day Can Keep Cancer Away Nature Study Joins Growing List of Recent Apple Findings

MCLEAN, VA (June 11, 2000) - There's now more umph to the adage an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Today's edition of the journal Nature reports that natural nutrients found in apples can fight cancer. In fact, study authors say, one apple packs more cancer-fighting antioxidant capability than a 1,500-milligram megadose of vitamin C. Researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., found that nutrients contained in both apple skin and flesh inhibited the growth of colon cancer and liver cancer cells. Scientists believe that these phytonutrients can protect the body against chronic disease caused by the effects of the natural, but damaging, oxidation process. Antioxidants protect against free radicals, which contribute to cancer cell growth and other disease processes. The Cornell research indicates that apple antioxidant phytonutrients significantly reduce the growth of at least two types of cancer cells.

"In this research, we have shown the importance of these phytochemicals to human health," said study lead author, Dr. Rui Hai Liu, in a June 21 Cornell News Service press release.

"Scientists are interested in isolating single components, such as vitamin C, vitamin E or beta carotene, to see if they exhibit antioxidant or anticancer benefits," continued Dr. Liu. "It turns out that none of those works alone to reduce cancer. It's the combination of flavonoids and polyphenols," classes of antioxidant phytonutrients found in apples, "doing the work."

According to the Cornell researchers, 100 grams of unpeeled fresh apple - about two-thirds of a medium-sized piece of fruit - provides the total antioxidant activity of 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C.

"Eating fruits and vegetables is better than taking a vitamin pill," said Dr. Liu.

Researchers compared the oxidation- and cancer-fighting capabilities of extracts made from apple flesh as well as apple skin. While the apple skin extract was best able to inhibit cancer cell growth in this experiment, the apple flesh extract's health-promoting capabilities were also significant. The apple skin extract reduced the growth of human liver cancer cells by 57 percent, while the apple flesh abstract reduced liver cancer cell growth by 40 percent. The Nature study, conducted by Cornell food science professors Dr. Liu and Dr. Chang Yong Lee and graduate student Marian Eberhardt, was funded by the New York Apple Research Development Program and the New York Apple Association.

List of Apple Health Benefits Is Expanding The Nature study is the latest of several recent studies reporting on a range of apple health benefits, many linked to the phytonutrients found in apples. In May, Finnish researchers reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition that apple consumption may reduce the risk of stroke. In January of this year, researchers at the University of Hawaii reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that apple phytonutrients are associated with a reduced risk of lung cancer, validating the same conclusion drawn by a separate, Finnish study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1997. Also in January, British researchers reported that apple eaters have better lung function than non-apple eaters, as reported in the British journal Thorax.

In April 1999, researchers at the University of California-Davis reported that phytonutrients in apples and apple juice prevent oxidation of the "bad" type of cholesterol, and thus helped protect against heart disease. Apple antioxidants were linked to a reduced risk of heart disease in a Finnish study published in the British Medical Journal in 1996.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrient databases, apples are also a major source of fiber, containing both soluble and insoluble fibers. Fiber provides a range of health benefits, from protecting against heart disease to managing diabetes to controlling weight. Apples and apple products also contain potassium, which helps control blood pressure and protects against stroke. Apples and processed apple products are the most consumed fruit in the United States. A recent survey of pediatricians concluded that apple juice is the first juice recommended for young children.

"Given the latest health findings, consumers of all ages should increase that apple or glass of apple juice a day to two, for better health," said US Apple Association nutrition communications director Julia Daly.

New Study Links Apples to Reduced Risk of Stroke

MCLEAN, VA - "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" continues to gain new scientific support, according to newly-published research that links apples to a reduced risk of stroke.

In a study released this week in the May issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Finnish researchers concluded there is an association between apple consumption and a reduced risk of stroke, after studying a large group of 9,208 Finnish men and women for more than 25 years. After following the study group for 28 years, researchers determined that study participants who ate the most apples had the lowest risk for stroke, where a blood clot starves part of the brain of oxygen.

"Apples, apple juice and other apple products have always been in the forefront of a healthy diet," noted Sue Taylor, R.D., director of nutrition communications for the Processed Apples Institute. "This and other recent research confirms what our Moms have known all along: that a serving of apples or apple juice really will keep the doctor away!"

"An apple a day, literally, appears to confer all kinds of health benefits, from heart and lung health to now stroke prevention," said Julia Daly, public relations director for the US Apple Association.

Two other epidemiological studies from Finland published in recent years found that consumption of plant-based "phytonutrients" found in apples were correlated with reductions in the risk of developing both heart disease and lung cancer. Both studies pointed to quercetin, from a class of phytonutrients called flavonoids, as the beneficial agent. Apples are the best fruit source of quercetin.

Last spring, researchers at the University of California-Davis (UC-Davis) reported that both apple juice and apples are loaded with these newly-identified phytonutrients now being praised for their health benefits. They found that apple flavonoids may help prevent the damaging effects of the "bad" type of cholesterol on the cardiovascular system.

The latest Finnish study suggests there may be more to apples' healthfulness than previously thought. Researchers reported that while there was a strong relationship between apple consumption and reduced risk of stroke, the benefit did not appear to be related to apples' high quercetin content - suggesting that some unidentified component in apples may be at work.

"Nutrients in apples and other foods work in complex synergy we don't completely understand, making it difficult to single out any one nutrient as responsible for apple's protective benefits," said UC-Davis researcher Dianne Hyson, M.S., RD "This study adds to the growing body of evidence that apples and apple juice are associated with a number of health benefits."

News Release is courtesy of The Processed Apples Institute


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