Apples to Prevent Digestive Disease?

An apple a day may keep digestive diseases away. That's according to new research published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.

Apples are a great source of soluble fiber (found to lower cholesterol), quercetin (an antioxidant which plays a role in lung function), and other antioxidants that promote heart health but new findings suggest that the skin in apples—which is high in polyphenols—can also offer protection against autoimmune diseases such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and colorectal cancer.

The findings of the study suggest that polyphenols, a type of antioxidant found in the apple's peel, provide an anti-inflammatory benefit for those suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases.

It appears that the polyphenols fight T cell activation to prevent colitis. Their findings suggest that polyphenols counter the T cells to suppress inflammation in the colon and protect against the digestive disease.

"The study is the first to show a role for T cells in polyphenol-mediated protection against an automimmune disease," according to the press release from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

"Many people with colitis use some form of dietary supplement to complement conventional therapies, but most of the information on the health effects of complementary medicine remains anecdotal. Also, little is known about exactly how these therapies work, if they work at all," said David W. Pascual, Ph.D., Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. "Our results show that a natural product found in apple peels can suppress colonic inflammation by antagonizing inflammatory T cells to enhance resistance against autoimmune disease."

Study Details

Using a chemically induced model of colitis, the researchers gave one group of mice an oral daily dose of apple polyphenols; while another group was given an oral placebo once daily. The results: Scientists found the mice treated with the apple polyphenols were protected from colitis. In addition, they found that the mice treated with the apple polyphenols had fewer activated T cells in their colons.

As a control, scientists found that "in mice lacking T cells, apple polyphenols were unable to protect against colitis or suppress proinflammatory cytokine expression, indicating apple polyphenols protect against colitis via the suppression of T cell activation and/or recruitment."

These findings may help lead to new therapies for patients with inflammatory bowel disorders, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

In the meantime, if you suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, and can tolerate eating apple peels, it may be one (red) delicious way to keep the doctor away.