Dried Apples May Reduce Cholesterol, Other Benefits
Dried apples are a nutritious, versatile snack, convenient for the office, hiking trails, and taking the edge off your hunger before dinner. But they could be much more than that, as a new study suggests dried apples may help reduce cholesterol in postmenopausal women. Here's what you should know about dried apples.
Dried apples beat dried plums
Lots of people are looking for ways to lower their cholesterol levels, including total cholesterol and the so-called bad cholesterol, low density-lipoprotein (LDL). While there is plenty of pressure from pharmaceutical companies and doctors to take cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins, some people prefer to try a natural approach, and that can include dietary measures such as dried fruit.
Enter dried apples. In the new study, led by Professor Bahram Arjmandi of Florida State University, 160 postmenopausal women were assigned to one of two groups: 75 grams per day of dried apple or the same amount of dried plum (prunes; control group). The study lasted one year, and fasting blood sample were collected at the beginning of the study and at months 3, 6, and 12.
Researchers selected postmenopausal women because the risk of cardiovascular disease increases dramatically in this group of women once their hormone levels drastically change after onset of menopause. Therefore it is important to find safe, effective ways to help reduce that risk, and lowering cholesterol is one of them.
At different times during the study, here is what the researchers observed:
- At 3 months, women who consumed dried apple had significantly lower total cholesterol (9%) and LDL levels (13%) when compared with their starting levels
- At 6 months, the dried apple group had lowered their total cholesterol by 13% and their LDL by 24% compared with baseline, and these levels remained the same thereafter.
- Women who ate dried plums did not experience a significant reduction in cholesterol, although at 12 months total cholesterol had declined by 3.5% and LDL by 8% compared with baseline
- Women in both groups lost a mean of 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds) of body weight during the study, so their consumption of dried apples or dried plums did not significantly affect their weight.
Both dried apples and dried plums appeared to have a positive effect on lowering other cardiovascular risk factors, including C-reactive protein and lipid hydroperoxide. C-reactive protein causes inflammation while lipid hydroperoxide causes oxidative damage to the cells.
Dried apples offer a number of other health benefits. One cup of dried apples (86 grams, which is slightly more than the 75 grams used in the study) provides about 209 calories, 7 grams of fiber (30% of your daily needs), 11% potassium, 7% iron, and 0% fat. Dried apples also are very low on the glycemic load scale (26), which is important for people with diabetes.
Postmenopausal women who are looking for natural ways to help reduce cholesterol and lower their risk of cardiovascular disease may want to consider dried apples. Whether dried apples can help reduce cholesterol in other groups was not addressed in this study.
Chai SC et al. Daily apple versus dried plum: impact on cardiovascular disease risk factors in postmenopausal women. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2012 Aug; 112(8): 1158-68