You know, an apple a day keeps the doctor away ... This statement, however, in the light of the most recent scientific research, is not based only on popular wisdom but has a solid basis given by rigorous studies on the subject. Such as the research we are talking about today that has the merit of having brought attention to the heart-saving properties of apples, useful for protecting the entire cardiovascular system. The research was published a few days ago in the Nutrients journal by a Spanish team (Catalan et al, Nutrients, 2022).
Diet and lifestyle to protect the heart
Cardiovascular disease is a cause for concern in all countries of the world. To counter them, it is possible to resort to a healthy lifestyle, moderate physical activity and a healthy diet with a high intake of vegetables and fruit, including apples. Apples contain several compounds that are beneficial for cardiovascular health, including phenolic substances, such as flavanols and anthocyanins, but also pectin, phytosterols, triterpenes, vitamins and minerals. In recent times, interest has been growing in red-fleshed apples as they are naturally rich in anthocyanins. Anthocyanins protect the heart since they help counteract hypercholesterolemia. However, despite having this information available, to date, a complete study aimed at understanding how different apple varieties can act to protect the cardiovascular system had never been carried out.
Red-fleshed and white-fleshed apples, equally beneficial
To fill this gap, Spanish researchers have drawn up a study. The research was conducted on animals that were given a high-fat diet. One part of the mice were given, together with the diet, extracts of red-fleshed apples, naturally rich in anthocyanins, another part extracts of granny smith apple, therefore completely free of anthocyanins but rich in other phenolic compounds, and finally to the remaining extracts of aronia, rich in anthocyanins in the same quantity as the red pulp apple. This last test was used to check whether any observed beneficial effects were attributable exclusively to anthocyanins or, conversely, also to the other compounds present in apples. What emerged was that both apples, red and white pulp, were able to act on the health of both the aorta and the heart, by downregulating the pro-inflammatory proteins released by these tissues. Not only that, both apples have made it possible to reduce the thickness of the aortic wall, which, if it increases, is a first indicator of the risk of developing arteriosclerosis. Finally, both red-fleshed and white-fleshed apples have improved kidney function and insulin sensitivity. The red-fleshed apple also reduced C-reactive protein, a protein released in case of inflammation and which is considered a valid indicator of heart attack risk. As for the aronia, benefits were observed for the health of the cardiovascular system, although different from those provided by apples. Aronia anthocyanins reduced cardiovascular risk by inhibiting the formation of thrombus. Not only that, the aronia has also made it possible to reduce the number of receptors associated with aortic coronary heart disease.
What emerged, therefore, allows us to understand that the action of apples is given by a synergy of substances that act by counteracting inflammation, one of the causes of cardiovascular diseases. Not only that, the combination of these beneficial compounds improves kidney function and helps reduce cholesterol and aortic thickness, thus decreasing the risk of atherosclerosis. This is why it is important to take whole fruits and to resort less to supplements as these cannot recreate the richness offered by nature. Finally, antioxidants, especially anthocyanins, are generally beneficial for the heart. Anthocyanins are found in various fruits, not only in red-fleshed apples, but also in aronia, studied in today's research, or in berries, cherries, black grapes and aubergines. Therefore, the important thing is always to ensure a healthy and varied diet.