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Does an Apple a Day Really Keep the Doctor Away?

Does an Apple a Day Really Keep the Doctor Away?

Doctor showing man scans

You might remember this lovely little adage from your childhood, when mom was willing to do just about anything to convince you to eat your fruits and veggies. But regardless of what you may have always thought, your mom didn’t just make up that whole “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” stuff – this particular phrase actually goes way back.

Some 150 years ago in Wales, the popular phrase that we know today – “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” – started out a little something like, “eat an apple on going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” It wasn’t until 1913, and presumably after many a person complained about the need for brevity, that we got the modern phrase as we know it today. Over a century and several phrase versions later though, the question remains: does an apple a day actually keep the doctor away or not?

The answer is probably what you already guessed; not really. Although apples are good for you and the skins are packed with hefty doses of vitamin C, they’re not quite potent enough to cure everything that ails you. According to one study at the University of Michigan School of Nursing in Ann Arbor, there was no statistically meaningful discrepancy between daily apple eaters and non-apple eaters during their yearly doctor visits. Apple eaters were somewhat less likely to visit the pharmacist, though, meaning they were slightly less likely to be taking prescription medications.

Here’s the catch, though: the main determining factor here was that apple eaters tended to cultivate healthier lifestyle habits anyway, so the apples themselves weren’t necessarily responsible for the gap in pharmaceutical visits. Either way, the statistical differences probably aren’t strong enough to convince you to plant an apple tree in the backyard this year.

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Woman holding apples at the orchard

But there’s probably still some value in the old adage, which can really be seen as encouragement to make healthy food choices on a daily basis. If you’re eating a diet full of fruits and veggies instead of fast food and processed snacks that are packed with preservatives, your chances of living a happy, healthy, energetic life are much higher, as are your odds of avoiding future problems down the road like high cholesterol and blood pressure. Alas, maybe this apple hasn’t gone totally rotten just yet.

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