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Surprising Science

An Apple a Day Does Not Keep the Doctor Away

In the spirit of April Fools' Day, researchers decided to put the old saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," to the test.

As part of its April Fools’ edition, JAMA Internal Medicine published a recent paper debating the truth of the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” The short version: It doesn’t, but there are upsides.


Matthew A. Davis led the study, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2007-2008 and 2009-2010). Out of the 8,399 survey participants only 9 percent (753 people) were self-reported daily apple eaters. EurekAlert!wrote some fun facts about those apple eaters, like that they had “higher educational attainment, were more likely to be from a racial or ethnic minority, and were less likely to smoke.”

Researchers measured the “keep the doctor away” portion of the study as no more than one visit to the physician over the course of the past year. Unfortunately, there’s no difference between apple eaters and non-apple eaters when it comes to frequency of visits to the doctor’s office. However, there was some margin of difference between the two when it came to prescription medicine, in that apple eaters tended to avoid getting them. Though, if Tyler Vigen has taught me anything about statistics, it’s that basing things just on coincidence is a dangerous thing.

The researchers conclude:

“Our findings suggest that the promotion of apple consumption may have limited benefit in reducing national health care spending. In the age of evidence-based assertions, however, there may be merit to saying ‘An apple a day keeps the pharmacist away.’”

Read more at EurekAlert!.

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An apple a day may not be a bad habit to pick up — it’s rich in dietary fibers and vitamin C — and, after all, the key to eating healthy, according to Dr. Steven Masley, is having tasty, easy-to-prepare foods.


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