Apples are so delicious and come in a wide variety of flavors, but recent studies show that eating apples could be beneficial to fighting certain types of cancers at several levels of the disease’s development. The old saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” is becoming closer to the truth. In a study done by Fourth Military University’s Pharmacy School in China, researchers found complex carbohydrates in apples called oligosaccharides. When used on human cancer cells, the sugars that are found in apples have a debilitating effect on the diseased cells. The oligosaccharides in apples trigger apoptosis in cells, which is the regulated process of cell death usually stimulated by abnormalities within the cell, like damaged DNA. Apoptosis is also the human body’s naturally occurring defense mechanism against increased cell production or cancer. The study also indicates that the oligosaccharides in apples actually prevent new cancer cells from forming.
In addition to the oligosaccharides found in apples, several other chemical compounds that make eating apples beneficial to fighting cancer. Postdoctoral researcher Xiangju He with Cornell University was able to isolate the compounds from the peel of a red delicious apple and identify their structures. He recognized the isolated compounds in the apple’s skin to be phytochemicals or flavinoids, which appear to have properties that inhibit and reduce tumor growth in breasts. Researchers think that triterpenoids in apples also have tumor suppressing properties. Triterpenoids are pentacyclic molecules synthesized from isopropene. Another important characteristic of apples and their cancer fighting properties are the fact that they are rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C and beta-carotene. Eating an apple prevents the oxidation process, which takes away hydrogen molecules by way of oxygen.
This fruit has a whole host of health benefits on top of reducing some cancers. Antioxidants prevent bacterial and viral infections in general and reduce their crippling effects on the immune system, while helping to quicken the elimination of toxins from the body. Apples also appear to contain malic acid, which boosts energy and is perfect for those diagnosed with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue. Apples are high in fiber too. For individuals who are watching their diet, fiber helps to curb appetite and maintain regularity within the bowels. Eating apples, in addition to several other servings of various fruits and vegetables on a daily basis is important in reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases.
Although a single apple contains many cancer-fighting properties, one cannot consume just any apple at the local farmer’s market or grocery store and hope to receive these benefits. It is important that consumers know to purchase and eat only organic apples in order to reap the benefits of their anti-cancer characteristics. An apple grown with pesticides usually contains residue of the poisonous chemical that was sprayed on it such as ethion, omethioate or parathion. If an apple is grown organically, it means that the fruit is free of the dangerous chemicals that target the nervous system. Some pesticides are even considered carcinogenic, which directly cancels out the good, cancer fighting properties that apples possess.
By Sarah Gallagher