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60-Second Health

Apple a Day Could Keep Statins Away

A population model suggests that a small dietary change, such as eating a daily piece of fruit instead of the equivalent calories in less healthful fare, may stave off as many heart-related deaths as would statins. Christopher Intagliata reports

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Especially the cardiologist, as it turns out. Because an apple a day might save as many lives as cholesterol-lowering statins are thought to. So says a study in the British Medical Journal. [Adam DM Briggs, Anja Mizdrak and Peter Scarborough, A statin a day keeps the doctor away: comparative proverb assessment modelling study]

Using mathematical models, researchers added an apple to the diet of every Brit over the age of 50—a total of 22 million adults—while keeping calorie intake constant. The idea being that calories from a vitamin and fiber-packed apple might displace those from less salubrious snacks.

And they found that upping the apple input could stave off some 8,500 deaths by heart attack or stroke each year—compared with an estimated 9,400 deaths averted by statins in England.

The comparison is not apples-and-oranges. Because some doctors have indeed proposed giving statins to everyone over 50 as a preventive measure. But a small change in diet might do as much good, if people comply. And unlike statins, which can up the risk of diabetes, apples have few side effects: the researchers cite the distress caused by a bruised apple; or the "theoretical risk of identifying half a worm inside."

So how do you like them apples?

—Christopher Intagliata

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

For a contrasting view, see this blog item by epidemiologist Paul Marantz, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY: 'Don’t Call that Apple “Medicine” Just Yet'

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