Apples could improve heart health by lowering bad cholesterol

Apples may improve heart health by lowering levels of iodized LDL cholesterol, the main cause of atherosclerosis.

More effective than tomatoes, curcumin spice or even green tea, apples - according to a new study from Ohio State University published in last week's Journal of Functional Foods - could improve heart health by lowering levels of iodized LDL cholesterol, the main cause of atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis occurs when fat, calcium, cholesterol or other materials build up against artery walls and form plaques, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood institute. These hardened plaques can limit blood flow and lead to complications such as heart attack or stroke.

Health effects
Participants in the OSU study were healthy and middle-aged. They consumed one apple a day for four weeks, reducing LDL levels by 40 percent on average. Patients who instead took apple polyphenol extract in capsule form experienced similar but weaker results, with placebo patients experiencing none of the benefits.

Lead researcher Robert DiSilvestro, PhD, told Ohio State University press that while polyphenols in apples are thought to be responsible for the primary effect, isolating them into pills seemed to lower their health impacts.

"We found the polyphenol extract did register a measurable effect, but not as strong as the straight apple," DiSilvestro said. "That could either be because there are other things in the apple that could contribute to the effect, or, in some cases, these bioactive compounds seem to get absorbed better when they're consumed in foods."

While some may already have their car keys in-hand to buy apples from their local grocer, sufferers of conditions such as heart disease may want to buy Lipitor to supplement any dietary changes. Medications for other heart conditions and for cholesterol reduction are also available from Canadian and international online pharmacies at reduced prices.

Additional studies
Apart from their heart-health effects, apples and apple juice have also been shown to ward off dementia and related behavioral and psychotic symptoms, according to a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias. The study added 8oz of apple juice a day to the diets of 21 individuals with dementia, finding a 27 percent improvement in behavioral symptoms after four weeks. 

Further studies within the past four years show how an apple a day could be effective at warding off colon cancer and obesity. One 2008 study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found that even in the early development of atherosclerosis, the condition could still be halted with doses of apples or apple juice. DiSilvestro's study also found that eating apples improved antioxidant levels in saliva, which he says may have implications for dental health.