50+ health * Healthy living

An apple a day does keep the doctor away

An apple a day does keep the doctor away At least if you are a fruit fly

The health properties of apples have long been praised by that old phrase "an apple a day keeps the doctor away". But there is some sound scientific thinking behind this old saw - hence the continued emphasis placed on the need to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables by health professionals and governments alike.

Now a new study has uncovered more evidence to bolster the apple's claim to be a superfood - eating the fruit regularly could increase your lifespan - at least if you are a fruit fly.

Fruit and vegetables are thought to provide protection against many diseases because they contain chemicals called antioxidants. These can help the body combat the negative effects of other toxic chemicals know as free radicals.

Free radicals have been implicated in cell damage and other effects of ageing and diseases such as cancer. So scientists at The Chinese University of Hong Kong decided to investigate in detail how antioxidants in fruits and vegetables can impact on life span.

In particular they focussed on the apple as previous studies had hinted that it could extend lifespan. The scientists, led by Dr. Zhen-Yu Chen, added antioxidants derived from apples to the diet of fruit flies - which are often used in such studies.

The results of the study, published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, found that the average lifespan of the flies was increased by 10 per cent compared to a control group that did not receive the apple extract.

Interestingly, the flies receiving the apple extract were also observed to have reduced levels of substances found in older flies which are linked to age-related health problems. They were also found to have preserved their ability to walk, climb and move about for longer.

Dr Chen noted that these results echo similar findings which found that women who often eat apples had reduced risk of heart disease.

This article was published on Fri 4 March 2011

Image © yellowj - Fotolia.com

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