An apple a day keeps the doctor away

We are hearing the adage: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” since our school days. How true is it in the modern world? Is there any scientific backing to this proverb?

An apple a day keeps the doctor away: the origin

We have heard the common English saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” so many times. There would be no educated person who has not heard about it.

It means that if we eat an apple every day we will be healthy and ward off diseases. Hence we do not need to visit the doctor. This proverb has its origin in Wales.

It first appeared in 1866 in a publication. But the original sentence was different. It was:

“Eat an apple on going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”

An apple a day keeps the doctor away
An apple a day keeps the doctor away (Source: Jamaica Loop)

Later, this same proverb reappeared in 1913 and became:

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”

Gradually, lay media, strong special interest groups and even medical fraternity began promoting it. By extension, it was implied that eating healthy fruits was good for the body.

Because fruits are packed with nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants that are all good for the body. Studies report variable outcomes.

But eating an apple every day did have some positive health impacts.

These included promoting weight loss, prevention of cancer and neurological degradation with aging, control of asthma symptoms, and boosting heart health. But does it lead to reduced health care visits?

Michigan study

In 2015, a study was conducted in Michigan to evaluate whether consuming an apple per day reduced visits to the doctor. This paper was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The researchers interviewed 8728 adults above 18 years.

They completed a daily dietary recall questionnaire. They were divided into daily apple consumers vs non-apple consumers. Their number of visits in last one year was noted down.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away
An apple a day keeps the doctor away -fact or myth (Source: Jessica Gavin)

9% of these study recruits were apple eaters. The number of doctor visits and use of health care services was not appreciably different in the two groups. Thus, the proverb did not hold true in this study. The study authors concluded:

While the direction of the associations we observed supports the superiority of apple eaters over non-apple eaters at avoiding the use of health care services, these differences largely lacked statistical significance,”

Healthy eating

The age-old adage has no supporting evidence to back it. But we can extrapolate that one should eat healthy to stay fit.

Additionally, one should reduce the stress of life as much as possible and adopt a healthy lifestyle including daily exercises. Vegetables and fruits should be a part of the daily diet.

Read here Food combinations that are wrong for the body and are to be avoided!

An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Healthy apple fruits (Source: BBC)

Carbohydrates and refined sugars should be less. Unhealthy fats should be low and proteins should be as much as required by the body. Avoid junk foods. Eat at proper times and do not skip meals. Eat wholesome and balanced.