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Can An Apple A Day Keep High Cholesterol Levels Away?

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Updated February 24, 2014

You’ve probably heard the saying that an apple a day may keep the doctor or dentist away, but researchers are finding that eating apples may keep your cholesterol down, too. Apples are a healthy and delicious fruit that can be eaten alone, or added to many foods for taste. Additionally, it has been found that apples also contain a variety of healthy chemicals, such as polyphenols, pectin, and other types of fiber.

Polyphenols and soluble fiber are found in a variety of other fruits and vegetables, such as grapes, berries, and peppers. Pectin is a complex carbohydrate and soluble fiber that is found in many fruits, including apples. These compounds have been found to possess a variety of potential healthy benefits, such as lowering cancer risk (polyphenols) and aiding in digestive health (fiber and pectin), but do they also help lower cholesterol levels?

Lowering Cholesterol Might Require More Than One Apple…

There has been limited research examining the relationship between apple consumption and cholesterol. Most studies didn’t necessarily examine the effect of whole apples, but looked at diets supplemented with its healthy components, such as pectin, polyphenols, fiber, or a combination of all three components in these studies. Most studies have been performed in rats on a high cholesterol diet, and very few studies have been performed in humans.

Studies involving rats have found that the amount of fiber (both insoluble fiber and pectin) found in almost two medium sized apples (about 6 ounces a piece) is able to lower total cholesterol by up to 10% and raise HDL cholesterol by about 10%. A few studies found that the polyphenols contained in apples can lower the oxidation of LDL, which significantly contributes the atherosclerosis. While there are many studies that suggest that apples do have cholesterol-lowering benefit, some studies suggest that they do not lower cholesterol.

Additionally, the researchers found that taking pectin, polyphenols, and fiber at the same time was most beneficial for maximal cholesterol lowering benefit. So if you prefer to take supplements of these products, rather than eating apples, you would need to take polyphenol, fiber, and pectin supplements together in order to lower your cholesterol. There’s also bad news for those of you who like to peel off the skin of your apples -– the peels also contain a large amount of pectin, and fiber.

The Bottom Line

While you would need to eat two apples to see only a slight lowering of your cholesterol, apples are a delicious and healthy fruit that much healthier than eating other fattening snacks, such as chips or cookies. And if you don’t like apples, you can either take supplements containing pectin and polyphenol, or better yet, pick another fruit in the same family of apples, such as pears or hawthorne berries.

Sources:

Aprikian O, Duclos V, Guyot S, et al. Apple pectin and a polyphenol-rich apple concentrate are more effective together than separately on cecal fermentations and plasma lipids in rats. J Nutr 133(6):1860-5.

Chu YF, Liu RH. Apple phytochemicals inhibit LDL oxidation and induce hepatic LDL receptor expression.

Fernandez ML. Soluble fiber and nondigestible carbohydrate effects on plasma lipids and cardiovascular risk. Curr Opin Lipidol 2001 Feb;12(1):35-40 2001.

Nagasako-Akazome Y, Kanda T, Ohtake Y, et al. Apple polyphenols influence cholesterol metabolism in healthy subjects with relatively high body mass index. J Oleo Sci 56(8):417-28.

Osada K, Suzuki T, Kawakami V, et al. Dose-dependent hypocholesterolemic actions of dietary polyphenol in rats fed cholesterol. Lipids. 41(2):133-9.

World’s Healthiest Foods. 2008. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=15&tname=foodspice. Accessed 19 March 2008.

Rolfes SR, Whitney E. Understanding Nutrition, 3rd ed 2005.

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