I love apples. They are one of my favorite fruits and I eat them routinely. So I was excited today when the news reported that apples lower LDL levels in women. MSN reported that Florida State University studied the effect of apple ingestion daily over a period of six months in a group of women between the ages of 45-65. What they found was that after six months this group had a 23 percent decrease in bad LDL cholesterol. This is a significant finding. We know that physiologic changes occur in women at the time of menopause that cause their LDLs to rise and the HDLs to decrease. It is thought that leads to an increase the amount of inflammation and plaque in the vessels, limiting flow and ultimately completely blocking off the vessel in some women. The result: A heart attack. This is clearly a simplified version of the process but this change in the LDL is one of the factors that make the menopausal woman more susceptible for heart disease after menopause. Since menopause is essentially inevitable for women, anything we as women can do to mitigate any detrimental effects will be helpful. That is why the apple study is significant.
The researchers used dried apples- about 1/3 cup daily. That is roughly equivalent to a medium sized apple daily. They compared the group eating the apples with women who ate a different dried fruit. They did not see the same changes in the other group. They also did not study fresh apples, but the researchers felt the finding would be the same. The group did increase their calories slightly in eating the dried apples, but overall noted a slight decrease in weight. The researchers speculated that the weight loss could also be a factor in the results. Overall, they are unsure the exact mechanism of the decrease, but they also noted a decrease in C reactive protein in this group, which is an indicator of inflammation in the cells.
What is truly interesting to note is the effect of the apples on the lipid levels, which is similar to the effect that estrogen has on those levels. Remember, estrogen has been shown to have some great preventive qualities when it comes to lipids, especially in the earlier phases of menopause. Bottomline: When looking at some of the cardiovascular effects of estrogen and other lipid-lowering therapies in postmenopausal women, most researchers are giving the nod to a combination of strategies to include diet (apples of course), exercise, weight control, and hormone therapy as some of our strongest defenses in prevention and treatment.
If you would like to look at some of the studies they can be found at: