Why an apple a day could be as good as a statin for over 50s
An apple a day could stop you having a heart attack – and may even be as effective as taking a statin. Healthy over-50s who add a daily apple to their diet can benefit as much as those who start taking a tablet, Oxford University researchers claim. Their study goes some way to proving the proverb coined by the Victorians, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”.
Dr. Adam Briggs, of the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group at Oxford University, said “the Victorians had it about right when they came up with “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. 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.
“While no one currently prescribed statins should replace them with apples, we could all benefit from simply eating more fruit”, he added. In the study, published in the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal, researchers used mathematical models to assess the impact of prescribing a daily apple for all older adults.
They assumed almost three-quarters would eat their apple a day and that overall calorie intake stayed constant. They estimate 5.2 million people are now eligible for statins in the UK, and if it became policy to prescribe statins to all over-50s as some doctors want, a further 17.6million would be offered them. But this would also lead to a spate of side effects, including 1,000 extra cases of muscle disease, and more than 10,000 extra diagnoses of diabetes.
The researchers calculate that offering a daily statin to 17.6 million more adults would reduce annual vascular deaths by 9,400. However, offering a daily apple to 70 per cent of Britons aged over 50 – 22 million people – would avert 8,500 vascular deaths.
The scientists calculated that anyone eating one portion of fruit and vegetables, such as an apple, a day benefits from a 12 per cent reduction in their risk of heart attack and stroke. And this protection from one portion is roughly equivalent – in a person at low or moderate risk of heart problems – to the reduction in vascular death from taking a statin.