An apple a day might not keep the doctor away, but it might help keep the pharmacist at bay, a new study suggests.
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“Everybody thinks of the apple as a healthy food, and it is, but after adjusting for other variables we didn’t find a difference in doctor visits between apple eaters and non-apple eaters,” said Matthew Davis of the University of Michigan School of Nursing in Ann Arbor, who led the study.
Davis and colleagues set out to tackle a light-hearted question: is a proverb about apples that dates back to at least the 1800s really true? To find the answer, they compared apple eaters to abstainers, using data from 8,399 U.S. adults who completed questionnaires between 2007 and 2010 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Just 753 participants, or 9 percent, ate at least one small apple day. People who only consumed apples in the form of juice, applesauce or pie were considered non-apple eaters for the purposes of the study, Davis said. Apple eaters in the study had higher educational attainment, were more likely to be from a racial or ethnic minority, and were less likely to smoke.
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And at first blush, apple eaters seemed more likely to keep the doctor away, with fewer self-reported visits to health care providers. But the difference wasn’t statistically significant after adjusting for socioeconomic factors and other health characteristics. The apple eaters did appear to be significantly more likely to avoid prescription medications. Curiously, the link was slightly stronger for people who consumed small- or medium-sized apples than it was with large apples. An estimated 19.3 million U.S. adults consume the equivalent of about 26.9 million small apples daily, weighing about 8.8 million pounds, the researchers calculated.