Everyone knows the proverb: An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Unfortunately, even though apples are tasty snacks and are a good source of vitamin C and fiber, eating a daily apple does not mean you visit the doctor less often. Why, yes, someone did the research to find this out.
A study looked at information from 8,399 adults who reported on what they ate for a given day and on whether they used healthcare, which included a visit to a physician in the previous year, an overnight stay in a hospital, visits to a mental health professional, and the use of prescription medications. The 753 people who said they ate a small apple daily were compared to the 7,646 people who said they did not eat apples or ate less than one a day.
When the statistics were first looked at, it appears that apple eating does keep doctors away: 39% of apple eaters avoided physician visits versus 34% of non-apple eaters. But compared with the non-apple eaters, apple eaters had more education, were more likely to be from a racial or ethnic minority, and were less likely to smoke. When the researchers controlled for these variables and for body weight, health insurance status, and other factors, the association was no longer statistically significant. In the adjusted analysis, apple eaters also remained marginally more successful at avoiding prescription medications. There were no differences seen in overnight hospital stays or visits to a mental health professional.
One drawback to this study is the fact that what a person says they eat on one day does not always show what they really eat. The study also does not take into account other food choices. An apple is an excellent food, but it is not so super nutritional that it can make up for all the other food choices a person makes.
The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.