It’s one of classic rhymes constantly repeated to fussy children. Along with “Eat your greens”, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is a staple mantra at many kitchen tables.
However, on digging a little deeper, it seems that the relationship between apples and doctors’ surgeries is a little more complicated than the phrase suggests….
It’s no secret that apples are good for our health. MNT (Medical News Today) calls apples “nutritional powerhouses” and lists the great benefits of apple eating.
Firstly, apples improve neurological health as they contain the antioxidant “quercetin” which reduces the destruction of cells that is caused by the oxidation and inflammation of neurons in our brain. This means that apples can help reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimers or dementia.
Apples have also been proven to lower levels of bad cholesterol. A group of researchers at Florida State University said that older women who ate apples everyday had 23% less bad cholesterol (LDL) and 4% more good cholesterol (HDL). They could also reduce your risk of diabetes – people who eat 3 servings of apples a week have a 7% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
These super fruits also contain vitamin C, B vitamins, fiber, minerals such as calcium, potassium and phosphorus and phytonutrients that help protect the body from the detrimental effects of free radicals.
But will all these benefits actually keep the doctor away?
Funnily enough, this concept has caused enough scientific interest that this year, a scientific report was released, rather boringly entitled: “Association Between Apple Consumption and Physicians: Appealing the Conventional Wisdom That an Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away”. The research, conducted by Dartmouth University, the University of Michigan School of Nursing and the Veteran Affairs Medical Centre, used US nutrition data collected from nearly 8,400 men and women — 753 of whom ate an apple a day. However, the study concluded that “Evidence does not support that an apple a day keeps the doctor away; however, the small fraction of US adults who eat an apple a day do appear to use fewer prescription medications.”
On the other hand, other studies claim to have proven the apple a day adage.
A 2013 study from Oxford University found that if all people aged over 50 in the UK ate just one apple per day, they would actually prevent – or delay – 8500 heart attacks and strokes every year.
So it seems that science is as yet inconclusive on this old saying, however, looking at the history of the phrase helps shed a little light on the situation.
It turns out that the first written recording of this phrase is actually from Wales. The original wording appeared in about the 1860s and went like this: “ Eat an apple on going to bed, And you’ll keep a doctor from earning his bread.”
However, in Old English, the word apple was used to describe any round fruit that grew on a tree. Therefore, the forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve ate, often described as an apple, is actually only called “a fruit” in the 1611 King James Bible.
This could be the solution of the mystery behind “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”.
Although apples are clearly full of great vitamins and minerals that improve our health, perhaps what really keeps the doctor away is the consumption of lots of different fruits, meaning this phrase is, in the end, merely a slightly fruitier version of “Eat your greens”.
This article first appeared in nowcure.me, the one stop shop to find tips & tricks to a happier and healthier you!