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An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away, And Statins Do, Too

by Nancy Shute
Dec 18, 2013

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We're all supposed to be eating right, but most of us are not doing a very good job of that.

Could you eat an apple a day?

Adding in that one piece of fruit could improve cardiovascular health on a par with prescribing of cholesterol-lowering statins for everyone over age 50, according to a report published Tuesday in BMJ.

The authors were inspired to check out the validity of the Victorian-era proverb, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," as part of the journal's traditionally lighthearted Christmas issue. (Other topics include James Bond's alcohol intake.)

So researchers at the University of Oxford calculated what would happen if 70 percent of Britons over age 50 ate an apple daily, and compared that with putting that same group of people on statin drugs. They estimated 8,500 deaths would be avoided annually because of the apples, and 9,400 due to statins, out of 17.6 million people.

Their conclusion: "Prescribing either an apple a day or a statin a day to everyone over 50 years old is likely to have a similar effect on population vascular mortality," the article concludes.

Apples cost more than statins, the scientists note; generic statins are pretty darned cheap, and apples aren't covered by health insurance. But people taking statins would have to consider the risk of rare side effects including muscle damage and an increased risk of diabetes. And the researchers did not factor in the risk of choking while biting on that apple.

The findings support new guidelines issued in November that would double the number of people being prescribed statins to prevent cardiovascular disease, the authors say, as well as ongoing efforts in the United States and the U.K. to get people to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Talk with your doctor to find out if statins are right for you. But you're probably safe trying that apple without a prescription.

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