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Apple Peels Turn On Anticancer Genes

A new study calculated that if half the U.S. population ate just one more serving of conventional fruits and vegetables, 20,000 cases of cancer could be prevented. At the same time the added pesticide consumption could cause up to 10 extra cancer cases. So by eating conventional produce we may get a slight bump in cancer risk, but that’s more than compensated by the dramatic drop in risk that accompanies whole food plant consumption. Even if all we had to eat was the most contaminated produce the benefits would far outweigh any risks. Having said that, why risk any bump at all? That’s one of the reasons I encourage everyone to choose organic whenever one can, but we should never let concern about pesticides lower our fruit and vegetable consumption.

Washing fruits and vegetables can decrease pesticide residues (see my video Can Pesticides Be Rinsed Off?), and peeling even more so, but the skin is often where the nutrition is most concentrated. As you can see in my 3-min. video Apple Skin: Peeling Back Cancer, within the last year half a dozen studies have touted the benefits of apple peels.

We’ve known the more apples we eat, the lower our apparent risk of several cancers and scientists are just starting to unravel why. In the video I profile a study from the University of Wisconsin, where researchers pitted two lines of human prostate cancer and two of human breast cancer against the peels of organic gala apples. The cancer was not very happy about that (see the before and after here).

To figure out the mechanism by which apple peels cleaned cancer’s clock, the researchers measured the effect of apple peels on the tumor suppressor protein maspin inside the cancer cells. Maspin is a tumor suppressor gene that has been shown to have cancer suppressing, anti-angiogenic and anti-metastatic properties in both breast and prostate cancer cells. The tumor cells found a way to turn this gene off. Amazingly, the apple peels turned it back on. For the first time, the researchers showed an upregulation of this tumor suppression gene as they added more and more of the blended apple peels to each of the cancer types. They concluded that apple peels “possess strong antiproliferative effects against cancer cells, and apple peels should not be discarded from the diet.”

If that’s what one plant can do, what might a whole diet full of plant foods do to prostate and breast cancer cell growth? See†Ex Vivo Cancer Proliferation Bioassay and†The Answer to the Pritikin Puzzle, respectively.

More on the wonders of apples in†Dried Apples Versus Cholesterol and†Apples & Breast Cancer.

Apple juice, on the other hand, may not be health-promoting for reasons I explain in my last Care2 column Uric Acid Caused by Meat and Sugar. Click on my video pick above to learn more.

The antioxidant comparison in the above video is taken from Antioxidant Power of Plant Foods Versus Animal Foods. The comparison among juices is from Best Fruit Juice. Conventional apple juice may also contain contaminants (Fungal Toxins in Apples), though there is actually a fruit that’s healthier in juice form. See†The Fruit Whose Juice is Healthier.

More on pesticides in:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you havenít yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch 2012 year-in-review presentation†Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

Image credit: jspad / Flickr

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Read more: Cancer, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, General Health, Health, Videos, , ,

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


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8:54AM PDT on Oct 5, 2013


5:54AM PDT on May 2, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

6:43AM PST on Feb 17, 2013

I guess I need to buy more apples. I've just been having apple sauce.

7:04PM PST on Feb 15, 2013

cool I eat a lot of apples and will be planting my own trees this spring I already grow ym own peaches

7:25PM PST on Feb 13, 2013

Its the urosolic acid in the apple peels that is the super anti oxide.

12:00PM PST on Feb 13, 2013

Hi Amanda:

I eat both apples and peach peels. Peaches are my favorite fruit. I love them. I wash them, and enjoy. I am 75 years old. If I die because I ate a peach with skin, so be it. It will be worth it. I have never peeled a peach in my life.

7:45PM PST on Feb 12, 2013

I have been told by, more than one qualified source, that apples are one of nature's best foods.
However, after reading information on pesticides, it appears that apples and peaches are the most heavily sprayed. When buying apples, I pay the extra amount for organically grown.

3:39AM PST on Feb 12, 2013

Good notice. But I knew that apples have important nutrients.

7:52PM PST on Feb 11, 2013

Be sure to buy organic Apples as 98 percent of conventional apples have pesticides.

10:45AM PST on Feb 11, 2013

I guess the old saying "an apple a day keeps the doc away" may be true. I love apples and always wash then eat whole.

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