The saying an apple a day keeps the doctor away may sound like a bit of an old wives’ tale. But there may be some truth in it – at least if you have two apples a day, say scientists.

Writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the British and Italian researchers suggest that the fibre and antioxidants found in apples could help reduce total and LDL (or ‘bad’) cholesterol in people with slightly raised cholesterol. They also claim apples may help improve blood vessel health. And the magic number of apples you need to eat to achieve these benefits is two a day, apparently.

As with most of these types of studies, there was a relatively small number of participants – 23 women and 17 men, all with slightly raised cholesterol but otherwise healthy. Some of the volunteers ate two apples daily for a period of eight weeks – specifically Renetta Canada apples, which are grown in Italy – while others were asked to drink a sugar-and-calorie-matched apple juice drink. Only those who ate the whole apples saw health benefits, though none of the participants experienced any change in blood pressure or other markers of cardiovascular disease.

Could it be that the fibre in apples is responsible for the health benefits found, given that apple juice contains very little fibre compared with the whole fruit? Or could the effect be down to the bioactive polyphenols found in apples (which are found in higher proportions in whole fruit rather than its juice)? The researchers can’t answer that question. But it’s clear that if your cholesterol is a bit higher than it should be, this could be one easy way to tackle the problem.

Photo by Marina Khrapova on Unsplash