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Pears, apples good medicine for lung health

By Sari Huhtala

Pears and apples are nature’s perfect medicine. In fact, study after study show the phytochemicals and compounds in these fruits boost lung health, reduce the risk of lung cancer and have medicinal effects similar to some pharmaceuticals used for asthma.

A study in the Nutrition Journal found among all fruits, apples ranked second for the greatest concentration of phenolic compounds, natural plant substances with antioxidant activity. Apples, rich in flavonoids, in particular quercetin, are great preventative medicine, according to researchers.

An apple a day is a good health habit to get into, they conclude. A 1997 Finnish study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found strong evidence the flavonoids in apples help prevent lung cancer. The study, which spanned over 24 years, involved 10,000 men and women. A study in the Journal of National Cancer Institute in 2000 found daily apple consumption may help reduce the risk of lung cancer by up to 50 per cent.

The apple peel is where most of the nutrition lies, research in the Nutrition Journal revealed. Apple peels mainly consist of compounds: procyanidins, catechin, epicatechin, chlorogenic acid, phloridzin, and the quercetin conjugates. Quercetin conjugates – the apple’s best medicine – is found only in the apple peel, researchers say. Although the flesh of the apple has some catechin, procyanidin, epicatechin and phloridzin compounds, these are in much lower concentrations in the flesh, they say.

The studies hailing the benefits of apple consumption for lung health don’t end there. A 2001 study in the Netherlands, involving over 13,000 adults, found regular apple and pear consumption improve lung health. A 2000 study in the journal Thorax found that eating five or more apples a week significantly improved lung function, even after accounting for other factors like smoking, body mass index and exercise. Lung function was measured as forced expiratory volume (FEV) in one second.

Scientists studying apple consumption for lung health found its quercetin’s anti-asthmatic activity was similar to cromolyn sodium and dexamethasone, a synthetic glucocorticoid drug, according to research in the scientific journal Archives of Pharmacal Research.

A UK study found that eating at least two apples a week reduced the incidence of asthma, while a study in the European Respiratory Journal found that adults who ate fruits like apples and pears regularly reduced the prevalence of phlegm in the morning and in the winter months by up to 40 per cent.

Pears provide a good source of phenolic compounds, including leucocyanidin, catechin, epicatechin, chlorogenic acid, quercitrin and quercetin, reducing inflammation and clearing phlegm from the lungs.

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