ATLANTA (December 18, 2001) -- New research suggests that the phytonutrients found in apples can reduce the risk of developing asthma. Dr. Seif O. Shaheen and colleagues from London's King's College and the University of Southampton report that people who ate at least two apples per week had a 22-32 percent lower risk of developing asthma than people who ate fewer apples. The findings were reported in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (Vol. 164, No. 10, November 2001, 1823-1828).

"The association (of asthma risk) with apples suggests that we need a better understanding of how flavonoids, or other constituents of apples, influence respiratory health," Shaheen's team concludes. The researchers hypothesize that certain flavonoids may be key in this protection since other flavonoid-containing foods did not affect asthma risk or severity. They add that in the case of apples, different compounds altogether may be at work. According to the scientists, there was no evidence for an association between asthma and dietary intake of vitamins C and E.

These research conclusions were based on population-based case-control study of 1,471 adults in the United Kingdom that sought to examine how dietary antioxidants might affect asthma risk and severity. While the researchers note that further investigation is needed to better understand how the components in apples might influence lung health, they believe that apple flavonoids might reduce asthma inflammation through an antioxidant, antiallergenic or anti-inflammatory response.

Sue Taylor, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition communications for the Processed Apples Institute, remarks, "Since we already know that phytonutrients found in apples pass through to processed products like apple juice, this gives consumers another reason to select apple products." Taylor notes that these research findings provide additional support for other studies which are just now discovering that the phytonutrient content of apples have important health benefits.

According to Ms. Taylor, other recent studies have suggested that there is definitely something in apples that might improve breathing. In May 2001, researchers at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom reported that apple eaters had better lung function and lower risk of respiratory disease such as asthma than non-apple eaters. About the same time, researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands reported that smokers eating moderate amounts of fruits and vegetables - and particularly apples - cut their risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a common lung ailment among smokers, nearly in half.

In January 2000, researchers at London's St. George's Hospital also documented a possible link between apple consumption and lung function. Researchers at the University of Hawaii and Finland's National Public Health Institute both linked apple consumption with a reduced risk of lung cancer in separate studies published last year and in 1997, respectively. All of these studies point to apples' high flavonoid content as the potential health benefactor.

For more information about this research, visit the American Thoracic Society site at