Confusion, loss of memory, difficulty speaking, disorientation … Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is traumatic for those who have it and those who see their loved ones suffer from it. The statistics tell a sobering story:
- More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s
- Every 67 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s
- Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th largest cause of death in America
Scientists are not sure when and how the decline begins, but do know that the disease prevents brain cells from running well. While researchers are working day and night to find ways to battle Alzheimer’s, we on our part can keep the brain healthy by eating a balanced diet, including more of one particular fruit … apples.
Although apples have long held a terrific reputation for keeping the doctor away, some specific studies on their brain-boosting benefits are worth noting. A University of Massachusetts-Lowell study led by Dr. Thomas Shea showed that apples and apple juice helped mice with an Ahlzheimer’s-like defect improve memory tasks. In a separate study conducted by Cornell researchers, a chemical called quercetin was found to protect rat brain cells from oxidative stress. “An apple a day may supply major bioactive compounds, which may play an important role in reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders,” says Chang Y. “Cy” Lee, Cornell professor of food science.
And in more good apple news, Cornell University professor Rui Hai Liu and his colleague identified 13 compounds in apple peel that (in vitro or animal studies) either inhibited the growth or killed cancer cells of liver, breast and colon.
While scientists caution against believing that apples or apple juice is a definitive answer to Alzheimer or other diseases, they do emphasize that it should fit into part of a balanced daily diet. “Variety is best,” says Dr. Liu, “The thousands of phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables can be looked at as a team.”
Do try to choose locally grown organic apples. The Environmental Working Group, which publishes an annual list of conventional foods with the least and most pesticide residues points out that 99% of apple samples contain at least one type of pesticide. Some of these pesticides have been linked to Parkinson’s disease.