A New Twist on that Famous Apple Adage

Author:  Minnie Rai
Institution:  University of Western Ontairo

Ask any four year old or seventy four year old and they will be able to recite that timeless saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Well, that universal saying has garnered some scientific investigation. Recently, researchers at Cornell University have shed light on why apples have been reputed so well–they may help fight against breast cancer.

Rui Hai Liu, Associate Professor of Food Science at Cornell University, has published six studies in the past year on the relationship between apples and the prevention of breast cancer. His most recent paper in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reveals that fresh apple extracts reduced the size of mammary tumors in rats. Interestingly enough, the more fresh apple extracts the rats were given, the greater the inhibition of mammary tumors.

In a 24 week study, Liu had fed three groups of mice low, medium, or high doses of apple extracts. He discovered that adenocarcinoma, a tumor that is the main cause of death in breast cancer patients, was present in 81% of the tumors in the group of rats tested. However, the tumor developed in only 57%, 50% and 23% of the rats that were administered low, medium, and high doses, respectively, of apple derivatives.

While this has yet to be studied in humans, it does make for food for thought. If one were to translate the rat's apple consumption in the study, into an equivalent human dosage, it would be equivalent to eating one, three, and six apples a day. Clearly, consuming six apples a day, everyday may not be a realistic dietary feat for everyone, but the equivalent of eating one apple a day in rats was shown to decrease the development of tumors.

What is it scientifically about apples that make them such a wondrous fruit? Dr. Liu thinks the answer lies in potent antioxidants called phytochemicals, which are also known as phenolics or flavonoids. It is these antioxidants that have the ability to impede the growth of tumors and in Liu's rat research, they disrupt an important inflammation pathway in breast cancer cells.

These rich flavonoids are not just found in apples but are prevalent among other fruits and vegetables like grapes, oranges, strawberries and peaches. According to Liu's paper, oranges had the second most phytochemicals next to apples.

Whether it is your doctor or your mother reminding you to eat your daily servings of fruits and vegetables, maybe you should take heed to their advice. You may just be a hero to your body by fending off any villainous cancer that might come your way.

Written by: Minnie Rai

Edited by: Jeff Kost (News and Features Editor) and Nira Datta (Professional Reviewer)

Published by: Hoi See Tsao