Apples Really Can Keep the Doctor Away

By Michael A. Smith, MD

It’s believed that the proverb, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” dates from 19th century Wales. However, current research suggests that there’s a lot of truth in that saying. It seems apples provide powerful antioxidants called polyphenols that have a whole host of health benefits.

Compared to many other fruits and vegetables, apples contain relatively low amounts of vitamin C, but are a rich source of other antioxidant compounds — antioxidants classified as polyphenols. These are compounds that have a phenol backbone and are very effective at scavenging free radicals. It’s these compounds — polyphenols — that have caught the interest of medical researchers.

Let’s take a look at the three areas showing promise for apple polyphenols: allergies, body fat and blood lipids.

Apple Polyphenols Reduce Allergy Symptoms

Nobody likes suffering from a runny nose and watery, itchy eyes. Well, to investigate if apple polyphenols could help here, 33 participants with moderate or severe persistent allergic rhinitis were administered a drink either without apple polyphenols (placebo), low dose of apple polyphenols (50 mg/bottle), or with a high dose of apple polyphenols (200 mg/bottle).1

The research showed a significant improvement in sneezing attacks and nasal discharge in the high-dose group and a decrease in sneezing attacks in the low-dose group. The placebo group kept right on suffering.

In another study, apple polyphenols were administered for 12 weeks to people with cedar allergies. Compared to the placebo, the sneezing score was significantly lower for the apple polyphenol group during the early period of pollen season.2

Apple Polyphenols Reduce Visceral Fat

These days, who isn’t trying to lose some weight, especially around the waist? Now remember, diet and exercise form the foundation of any weight loss regimen. But sometimes we need some extra help. Again, this is where apple polyphenols come into play.

In one study, 45 overweight or obese adults were given 600 mg a day of apple polyphenols and their weight and body fat distribution were tracked for 12 weeks.3 The control patients gained weight, while supplemented patients lost nearly a pound. The visceral fat (deep fat around the organs) decreased in comparison with the control group.

A similarly-designed study using the same 600 mg/day dose followed patients for 16 weeks. It demonstrated a 9.4 square-inch loss of visceral fat in supplemented patients, an impressive 8.9% of their baseline area. Meanwhile, placebo patients gained 3 square-inches.4

Apple Polyphenols Reduce Blood Lipids

In a study, healthy subjects with slightly elevated cholesterol levels were administered food tablets containing apple polyphenols for four weeks. The tablets contained either 0, 300 mg, 600 mg or 1500 mg apple polyphenols. Total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol decreased significantly and HDL-cholesterol increased in the high-dose group.5

Pretty impressive, isn’t it?

We just couldn’t end this post without sharing an apple recipe that we love with you. Give this a try and tell us what you think.

Recipe: Vanilla Glazed Roasted Squash and Apples


  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, cut into thin wedges (1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon McCormick® Nutmeg, Ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Black Pepper, Ground
  • 2 unpeeled apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss squash and onion in large bowl.
  2. Mix butter, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, nutmeg and pepper in small bowl until well blended. Pour over squash mixture; toss to coat well. Arrange in single layer on foil-lined large shallow baking pan.
  3. Bake 15 minutes. Add apples; toss to mix well. Bake 25 to 30 minutes longer or until squash and apples are tender.
What’s your favorite apple recipe?


  1. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2006;16(5):283-9.
  2. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2005 Apr;69(4):829-32.
  3. J Oleo Sci. 2007;56(8):417-28.
  4. J Oleo Sci. 2010;59(6):321-38.
  5. J Oleo Sci. 2005;54(3):143-51.


Keith Townsend said...

Awesome info - I eat an apple a day but didn't know about these cool facts. Great to know!

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