New research investigating the truth behind the age-old saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ has found no difference in self-reported visit to a physician between those who ate apples and those who did not.
The US-based team analysed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2007-2008 and 2009-2010) to test whether the saying could be backed up by scientific evidence.
While it turns out that an apple a day won't keep the doctor away, the authors of the research did find some suggestion that it could keep the pharmacist away – with data revealing that apple eaters had marginally higher odds of avoiding prescription medications.
"Our findings suggest that the promotion of apple consumption may have limited benefit in reducing national health care spending,” write the study authors – led by Dr Matthew Davis from the University of Michigan School of Nursing.
“In the age of evidence-based assertions, however, there may be merit to saying 'An apple a day keeps the pharmacist away,'" they concluded.
The serious but light-hearted research is set to appear in a special April Fool's issue of JAMA Internal Medicine titled ‘The Prescription is Laughter’. According to editor-in-chief Rita Redberg from the University of California, San Francisco, the issue publishes scientifically rigorous yet humorous content ‘that will educate and entertain us all’.
In the current study, Davis and his co-authors compared daily apple eaters (those who consumed at least 1 small apple per day or 149 grams of raw apple) with non-apple eaters. Of the 8,399 survey participants who completed a dietary recall questionnaire, 753 (9%) were apple eaters and 7,646 (91%) were non-apple eaters.
Apple eaters had higher educational attainment, were more likely to be from a racial or ethnic minority, and were less likely to smoke, said the team.
The team measured ‘keeping the doctor away’ as no more than one self-reported visit to a physician during the past year. However, once sociodemographic and health-related characteristics were taken into account, there was no statistically significant difference between apple eaters and non-apple eaters when it came to ‘keeping the doctor away’.
However, apple eaters did have marginally higher odds of avoiding prescription medications, they said.
Meanwhile the authors found no difference between apple eaters and non-apple eaters when measuring the likelihood of avoiding an overnight hospital stay or a visit to a mental health professional.