Do you recall last year’s post on the beneficial effects of dried plums (aka prunes) on bone health? Well, it appears that dried plums are not the only functional fruit in town. In fact, eating just 2.6 ounces of dried apple daily may protect your heart after menopause.
In this study (published in the August issue of the Journal of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) researchers asked 160 postmenopausal women to eat dried apple or the nutritional equivalent (in terms of calories, fat, carbs, fiber and protein) of dried plums — 3.5 oz — daily for a year. At various time points during the study, levels of blood fats and cholesterol, physical activity and diet were measured. However, the women were asked to avoid taking any steps towards further altering their diets. None of them were on hormone therapy or taking cholesterol lowering drugs during and at least three months before the trial.
The findings are striking. Not only did women who ate dried apple drop 3 pounds, but by three months, their total cholesterol levels had decreased by 9% and LDL-cholesterol levels by 16%. By 6 months, these improvements increased to 13% and 24%, respectively. Moreover, the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol improved and C-reactive protein (a protein in the blood that responds to increases in inflammation) declined by 32 %. Women who ate dried plums also experienced improvements in these markers but not to the same dramatic extent.
Eating apples have been linked to improvements in body weight, blood fats, inflammation and other factors that contribute to heart disease. When dried, they are rich sources of soluble fiber and pectin and even suppress food intake, thereby leading to weight loss. Apples are also an excellent source of polyphenols — antioxidant-rich chemicals — that have also been shown to lowering heart disease risk.
Heart disease is a major problem in women and especially after menopause. There are numerous posts within Flashfree that explain the numerous factors that contribute to risk, including elevated cholesterol levels and weight gain. Dried apples represent a cost-saving alternative to statin drugs, which are frequently used to treated high cholesterol while also increasing the risk for muscle weakness and liver damage. Moreover, statins contribute to more than 3% of the total costs of heart disease in the U.S., which is pretty striking.
An apple a day? Sound advice, indeed!