It’s true what they say about an apple a day

apple boxThe Victorians famously had a talent for capturing, in memorable proverbs, important insights into life’s dilemmas.

There can be few whose actions have not been influenced at one time or another by the maxim that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, or that too many cooks spoil the broth. There is no denying that honesty is always the best policy. And, it has recently emerged, an apple a day really does keep the doctor away.

The unique chemical composition of polyphenols, flavonoids and antioxidant vitamins in peel, pulp and core is, says Dr Adam Briggs in the British Medical Journal, as effective as the cholesterol-lowering statins in preventing or delaying circulatory disorders – without their risk of side-effects. Further, a huge study involving nearly 200,000 people has found that those eating at least three servings of apples a week are less likely to develop diabetes and asthma.

Meanwhile, Dr Marianne Eberhardt of Cornell University reports in Nature that fresh apple extracts “inhibit the growth of colon and liver cancer cells in a dose-dependent manner”. Those seeking a simple health-promoting New Year’s resolution need look no further.


As for those looking for a novel, non-onerous way of losing some extra pounds in the coming months, they might consider taking up skipping. Dr Hiroshi Kawano, a Japanese researcher, last year demonstrated that not only does it burn off the calories, but it also helpfully suppresses the appetite.

The vigorous up-and-down movement of the abdomen and its contents, it is suggested, blocks the action of the hormone ghrelin released by the gut, which influences the “satiety” centre in the brain.

There is also renewed interest in the “boredom” diet, with US scientists reporting in May last year that those eating the same meal every day – be it chicken, pizza or macaroni – consume fewer calories. “Reducing variety may be an important component of intervention for reducing obesity,” the research team said.



This week’s query comes courtesy of Mrs R W from Bath. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes back in 1977, a condition well controlled with a combination of long and short-acting insulin for the past 37 years – except, peculiarly, when she is playing golf, which she does frequently.

When monitoring her blood sugar on the course she finds it can oscillate wildly, shooting up to “alarmingly high” levels or dropping precipitously to cause “terrible” hypos.

“It does not matter how competitive the round,” she writes – this is as likely to occur when playing with friends or against members of a rival golf club. “Nobody seems to know why this happens.” She would be interested to learn whether other diabetic golfers have a similar experience.



Finally, my thanks to enthusiastic hill and mountain climber Ray Marsh, for passing on his useful tip for preventing the feelings of faintness and light-headedness that can occur towards the end of a gruelling four- or five-hour hike. He speculated that, being in his early eighties, this is likely to be due to the failure of his ageing autonomic nervous system to maintain his blood pressure, resulting in postural hypotension.

Accordingly, he has adopted a practice learnt in the Army of lying prone with feet raised for five minutes every hour when out walking. “This, gratifyingly, has allowed me to continue with my outdoor activities without the need for medical treatment,” he writes.



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