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Any way you slice it, apples are good for your health. Researchers around the world continue to uncover the apple’s nutritive power and increasingly important role in preventing disease and combating the onset of life-threatening ailments. These factors are generating increased consumer interest inand enhancing the marketing potential forthe once-forbidden fruit.

In fact, a new survey from the Food Marketing Institute and Prevention magazine, Shopping for Health 2008, shows that 74 percent of consumers are trying to eat and shop healthier. Another consumer survey from the International Food Information Council found similar results. Understanding the health benefits of apples will help you to develop effective marketing strategies and drive apple sales.

USApple annually funds and promotes nutrition-health research associated with apples. Following is a snapshot of recent findings.

Heart health

New and emerging apple research continues to suggest that the apple’s unique nutrient composition and the presence of flavonoids combine to decrease the risk of heart disease.

High concentrations of antioxidants and fiberapproximately five grams per fruitact to improve blood lipid profiles and lower blood pressure. Apples have been shown to be especially high in soluble fiber, which helps to regulate cholesterol by preventing fatty build-up in the blood vessels.

Previous studies have also shown that blood pressure is likely to decrease through consumption of fiber-rich produce such as apples, and that for every ten grams of fiber consumed per day, overall heart disease risk decreases by 10 to 30 percent.

Additionally, recent USApple-funded research showed that adult apple and apple product consumers had significantly reduced C-reactive protein levels, another measurable marker related to cardiovascular risk.

Metabolic syndrome

Research has also shown that adults who eat apples, apple juice, and applesauce have a significantly reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health problems that are linked to chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. When compared to nonconsumers, adult apple-product consumers had a 27 percent decreased likelihood of being diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. Also known as Syndrome X and insulin resistance syndrome, metabolic syndrome is defined as having three or more of the associated symptoms, which include elevated blood pressure, increased waist size and abdominal fat, and elevated C-reactive protein levels. It is believed to affect an estimated 36 million Americans.

Colon health

Building on previous findings, new research continues to suggest that apple pectin and juice can defend against colon cancer. Components in apples and apple juice appear to enhance biological mechanisms that have anticarcinogenic effects in the colon.

In the journal Nutrition, German researchers reported that the compound butyrate is increased in the presence of apple pectin and apple juice extracts. Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid and is considered to be a chemopreventative agent and a major contributing factor to a healthy colon. The research found that the increased production of butyrate from the addition of apple components results in significantly less growth of precancerous and tumor cells.

Brain power

Eating apples may also help to improve memory and cognition. Multiple studies from Cornell University and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell have found that apple products may help boost brain function. As little as two apples or glasses of apple juice a day may help to protect brain cells from oxidative damage known to cause neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Asthma and lung function

While research has shown that apples may improve respiratory conditions in adults, eating apples while pregnant may also improve an unborn child’s lung function. Researchers from the Netherlands and Scotland concluded that mothers who eat apples during pregnancy may protect their children from developing asthma later in life. Children of mothers who ate apples during pregnancy were much less likely to exhibit symptoms of asthma.

Apples and antioxidants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently ranked three varieties of apples and apple juice among the top 20 antioxidant sources. While the report highlighted three apple varieties in particular, all apples contain beneficial levels of antioxidants that play a role in protecting the body from chronic disease. In fact, apples have one of the highest concentrations of the powerful antioxidant quercetin compared to all fruits and vegetables. In study after study, quercetin has been shown to provide a number of heart-healthy and chronic-disease-fighting benefits.

While the delicious taste of a crisp, juicy apple remains the most compelling reason to eat more apples, the apparent health benefits of whole apples and apple juice have propelled the fruit’s reputation as an easy, convenient, and delicious way to improve daily nutrition and help stave off illness.

To learn more about the nutritional value and health benefits of apples, visit the U.S. Apple Association Web site, www.usapple.org.