An Apple a Day, Keeps the Doctor Away – Really?


How miraculous is the apple?

So I’m pretty sure that we’ve heard this phrase going around a lot especially during our childhoods where we learnt proverbs and phrases at some point during our English lessons. No? Perhaps it might just be me.

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Apples are generally a fruit that has been linked towards a healthy diet. The bright red fruit (or green) is low sodium, calories but filled with fibre and vitamin C hence making it a delicacy sought by many. Apples have also shown evidences of being able to prevent breast cancer, lowering diabetes risk, combat obesity, reducing the risk of a stroke as well as preventing dementia. On an unrelated note, apples are the first thing that reminds us of the late Sir Isaac Newton and his revolutionary theory of gravity.

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A team of researchers decided to do a little myth busting

The University of Michigan’s School of Nursing as then decided to conduct a study to investigate the legitimacy of this proverb. As many as 8,399 people took part in answering a questionnaire in regards to their dietary intakes. The participants were categorised into two different consumers; apple eaters (753) and non-apple eaters (7,646). Led by Matthew Davis and his co-authors, the study measures the likelihood of “keeping the doctor away” by representing it with the number of visits for health care services.

For the researchers to also measure the apple consumption versus the visits to the doctor, they set a requirement for an apple to be at least 149g to be counted as “an apple”. Consumption of apples in the form of  sauces of juices is excluded too. Apple consumers were shown to possess higher educational background and were more likely to come from a racial or an ethnic minority. These are also the same group of people who were less likely to be smoking. The data above used for analysis were based on the National health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted during 2007-2008 as well as 2009-2010.


Apple eatersNon-apple eatersCorrelation?
No. of participants7537646
Avoidance of one yearly doctor visit39.0%33.9%No
Avoidance of medical prescription47.7%41.8%Yes


The findings of the study was rather unexpected

Based on the table above, the researchers have concluded that there is no significance relationship between the consumption of apples versus the numbers of visits to the doctors yearly, since the difference in percentage isn’t that big. The researchers initially headed in the direction whereby they associated consumption of apples to be linked with avoidance of doctor visits which was unfortunately wrong at the end. However, there is a noticeable difference among apple eaters and non-apple eaters when it comes to showing the percentage in avoidance of medical prescription. Apple eaters show a significantly higher rate of avoiding medical prescription in comparison to non-apple eaters. This meant that by consuming apples daily, there are higher of chances where you are not being prescribed with medicine.

The study was concluded with the results showing positive correlation towards avoidance from medical prescription but negative correlations towards avoidance of a yearly doctor visit among participants. So does an apple a day keep the doctors away? Most unlikely. The researchers concluded that an apple a day would be able to keep the pharmacists away instead. Therefore, apples are pharmacists’ new enemies now.

Are you a daily apple consumer? Would you still eat apples knowing that it doesn’t repel doctors? Or perhaps are you a pharmacist who has declared war against apples?

Nicky Lee

by Nicky Lee

Your typical neighbourhood ah pek who roams on the internet to satisfy his curiosity. Bold. Loud. Talkative. View all articles by Nicky Lee.


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