Healing Kitchen

An Apple a Day May Keep Cancer Away
Apples have been the focus of attention since Eve decided she wanted fruit for breakfast (or was it lunch). Long the darling of American comfort desserts such as apple pie and apple crisp, as well as the subject of the well-known adage "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," apples are once again in the public eye. Some of you may remember the big apple scare of the late 1980's, when apples were the subject of a highly contentious and controversial debate. Consumer watchdog groups were concerned that a pesticide called daminozide (Alar is the trade name)--which was sprayed on apples to keep them on the trees longer, to retain their crispness, and to make them look better--was potentially carcinogenic. As a result, apple growers stopped using the pesticide. Now, ironically in the fading light of the old Alar scare, apples are currently being investigated for their potential to prevent cancer.

Researchers at Cornell University published a small though compelling study (Nature 2000;405:903-904) on the tumor-fighting effects of certain phytochemical compounds found in apples. The scientists used extracts from red Delicious apples and found that cell proliferation was inhibited in colon cancer cells treated with the apple extract. The study was two-fold, comparing apple extracts from the apple skin versus the apple flesh. Colon cancer cells treated with 50 milligrams of apple extract from the skins were reduced by 43%, and extract from apple flesh inhibited colon cancer cells by 29%. The same model was also used on liver cancer cells, with similar results. The scientists also compared the antioxidant effectiveness of fresh apples with vitamin C and determined that 100 grams of fresh apple with skins (equivalent to one small apple) had the antioxidant power of 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C. The authors of the study (which was funded by the New York Apple Research Development Program and the New York Apple Association) speculate that the combination of certain phytochemicals--phenolic acids and flavonoids--in apples may be responsible for their anti-cancer potential.

Author: Maureen Mulhern-White
Date Published: 08/03/2000
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