Life Wellbeing Apple a day: does it keep the doctor away?
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Apple a day: does it keep the doctor away?

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An English phrase dating back to 1866 tells us that eating an apple a day can keep the doctor away.

The fruit is certainly one of the healthiest a person can eat, packed full of fibre, antioxidants and vitamin C.

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But does the humble apple really hold the answer to the world’s ills?

A study of more than 8000 Americans published this week found that while daily apple eaters were less likely to smoke and take prescription medication, they weren’t any less likely to visit the doctor.

The findings published in medical journal JAMA International Medicine found daily apple eaters were marginally more likely to keep the doctor away, but after adjusting for other factors, there was no evidence to support the claim.

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Apple eaters had higher education attainment. Photo: Shutterstock

Crude analysis showed 39 per cent of apple eaters avoided physician visits, compared to 33.9 per cent of non-apple eaters.

For the measure to be successful, daily apple eaters had to visit the doctor no more than once per year and had to avoid other health care services like overnight hospital stays.

The study did offer some other interesting findings, with daily apple eaters more likely to be from a racial or ethnic minority.

The apple-eating group also had higher education attainment and were less likely to smoke.

Even after adjusting for factors like sociodemographic factors, apple eaters were also more successful at avoiding prescription medications.

There was also no difference however, in mental health visits or overnight hospital stays.

Speaking to The Atlantic, researcher Matthew Davis said he wanted to study what it meant to ‘keep the doctor away’.

“I always thought the phrase was funny, because there’s a big difference between health status and healthcare use,” Prof Davis said.

“People assume that they go hand in hand, but they’re very different things from our perspective, and they don’t always go in the direction you imagine.

“People who eat an apple a day are a little more likely to keep the doctor away, but once we adjusted for all the other differences—as you can imagine, apple eaters are very different from non-apple eaters—the effect disappeared.”

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