An apple a day really might keep the doctor away.
A new study in the British Medical Journal using mathematical models suggests that if adults ages 50 and older were to eat an apple a day, 8,500 heart attack and stroke deaths in the U.K. could be prevented each year.
In addition, the number of lives saved from eating an apple each day seems to be about the same as if people over age 50 were prescribed a cholesterol-lowering statin drug.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford, involved mathematical modeling to compare lives saved from an apple a day, per the old and famous saying, and statin use among middle-aged people. They looked to see what would happen if they were to assign everyone ages 50 and older in the U.K. to either take a statin every day (if they weren't taking one already) or to eat an apple every day; they assumed a 70 percent compliance rate, and consistent calorie intake.
They estimated that an additional 17.6 million adults would then take a statin, based on their calculations, which would then result in 9,400 fewer deaths from stroke and heart attack. Meanwhile, if 70 percent of the U.K. population ages 50 and older ate an apple every day, it would result in 8,500 fewer deaths from stroke and heart attack.
However, the researchers noted that statins do carry risks, and prescribing statins to that additional number of people would lead to 1,000 more muscle disease cases (called myopathy) and more than 10,000 extra diabetes cases.
Controversial guidelines recently issued by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology addressed statin use for the purposes of heart attack and stroke prevention, and increased the number of people who would then meet the threshold for statin use (44 percent of men and 22 percent of women under the new guidelines, compared to 15 percent of adults right now), the Associated Press reported. However, those guidelines have been widely criticized by other doctors because they involved use of a risk calculator that some say overestimates risk.
This isn't the first time health benefits have been linked with daily apple-eating. A 2011 study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association showed that stroke risk goes down 9 percent for every 25 grams you eat of white-fleshed fruit a day (including apples and pears).