An apple a day keeps stroke, heart attack and statins away

Probably we all have heard the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but have you ever heard that ‘an apple a day keeps the heart attacks and strokes away’? Perhaps none of us, but it turned out to be quite true for people aged 50 and older in a new research carried out by researchers from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

In the new analysis, the British researchers found that daily intake of one apple could work as effectively as statins do at preventing strokes and heart attacks in the elderly.

“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,’” lead researcher Adam Briggs, MSc, academic clinical fellow at the University of Oxford, said in a statement. “It just shows how effective small changes in diet can be, and that both drugs and healthier living can make a real difference in preventing heart disease and stroke.”

To reach their conclusion, the team of Brit researchers created a mathematical model and compared the effects of daily apple consumption to the effects of statin a day to the 17.6 million people in the UK, who are candidates for statins, but currently not taking them.

They found eating an apple a day helped avert 8,500 vascular deaths such as heart attacks and strokes a year, compared to the 9,400 annual vascular deaths reduced by prescribing statins to people over 50 years.

Out of an estimated 5.2 million Brit people who are eligible for statin treatment in the UK, about 17.6 million are not currently taking statins. The research team calculated if these people are offered a daily statin treatment it would minimize the annual number of vascular deaths by 9,400, while offering a daily apple to this population would avert 8,500 vascular fatalities.

“Statins and apples are both iconic,” Dr Briggs said. “An apple a day is known throughout the English-speaking world as a saying for health, and statins are now some of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world. So, when you now have a debate in the medical world about increasing the amount of statins prescribed for primary prevention, we wanted to look at what that would mean for population health and if there were other ways of doing it.”

The team concluded that an apple a day proved to lower the vascular death numbers similar to the statins, without any of the side effects. The team, however, stressed their analysis does not encourage patients to stop taking their drug.

The new study is published December 17, 2013 in the Christmas issue of The British Medical Journal.

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