The majority of people have heard the expression “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. The question is where did this come from and is it true? A study conducted by Dr. Matthew Davis and associates took a deep dive into this topic. They had their work published in a journal article in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal in 2015.
The phrase came from Wales and was first published in 1866 as “eat an apple on going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread”. The phrase gradually changed over time and in 1913 was published as “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. In this previous era, medical practice was very unrefined and many people did not seek care from physicians. Many people relied on home remedies and recipes passed down from families and friends. The phrase created an image and the apple was created as a symbol of health. Even to this day, many companies use the apple as a symbol of health and wellness.
Of course, apples are fruit and can’t be deemed harmful but do they really help promote a person’s health? Do people who eat an apple a day really need less healthcare attention? Dr. Davis’s study aimed to assess the link between eating a daily apple and keeping the doctor away.
His study examined 8,728 surveys from adults who completed the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2007 to 2010 which included having the participants recall everything they ate for an entire day. He looked into the participants that ate apples versus participants who did not eat apples. Then he examined how many times the participants had gone to a healthcare provider or had to seek out medical care in the year.
Out of the 8,728 participants, only 753 of them were regularly consumed apples. It was found that the apple eaters had higher education levels, were more likely to be from a minority, were on fewer medications, and were less likely to be smokers. The research concluded that the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is not necessarily true.
There are no harmful side effects known of eating a daily apple. Of course like any food, they should be consumed in moderation. They can be a component of a healthy balanced diet along with other nutritious foods. Apples are highly nutritious and contain antioxidants but it has not been proven that they will keep the doctor away.
Davis MA, Bynum JPW, Sirovich BE. Association Between Apple Consumption and Physician Visits: Appealing the Conventional Wisdom That an Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(5):777–783. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.5466