ATLANTA (February 20, 2001) -- If you think apple juice is just for kids, think again! Recently published clinical research with adults from the University of California at Davis (UC-Davis) gives new meaning to the old adage, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." For the first time ever, UC-Davis researchers have discovered that the "phytonutrients" (active plant components) found in 100% apple juice and apples can actually help slow some of the processes in humans that can lead to heart disease.

The research, which found that apple juice and apples had similar health effects as red wine and tea, was published this week in the Winter edition of the Journal of Medicinal Food, an international and highly regarded research journal.

What makes this study so unique? This was the first clinical study to evaluate heart-health benefits of 100% apple juice and fresh apples. In this 12-week study with adults (25 healthy men and women), just 1-1/2 cups of 100% apple juice or two fresh apples consumed daily slowed the oxidation process of the "bad" (LDL) cholesterol. While the study results were the most dramatic for the apple juice, consumption of fresh apples slowed the cholesterol oxidation process as well. When this LDL cholesterol becomes oxidized, it has more of a tendency to clog arteries and can lead to heart disease.

"We found that just taking in moderate amounts of apple juice and apples, without making any other dietary changes, can reduce some markers for heart disease risk," said lead UC-Davis researcher Dianne Hyson, Ph.D., R.D.

Hyson further explained that LDL particles made up of fat and protein carry cholesterol into the bloodstream. LDL particles that have been oxidized - that is, transformed by exposure to oxygen in the body - are more likely to build up into formations of plaque in arteries, causing atherosclerosis or the hardening and narrowing of arteries. Arteries in the heart are more susceptible to plaque formation and related damage, known as atherosclerosis. The risk of atherosclerosis is reduced if oxidation of LDL cholesterol can be delayed, giving the body more time to eliminate the cholesterol before it can cause arterial damage.

Phytonutrients are newly discovered plant components that are thought to have antioxidant properties that are important for good health. "We were particularly excited about our research because we found the apple phytonutrients really can make a difference once consumed," said Hyson.

Although apple juice is a favorite of young children, the researchers decided to evaluate the health benefits of apple products with adults. This research with 100% apple juice and apples supports laboratory research and population studies from around the world which demonstrate that there are nutrients in apple juice and apples that are vital to good health.

Leading health organizations such as the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Cholesterol Education Program stress the importance of instilling healthy dietary habits in childhood and carrying them into adulthood. One of those habits should be to consume at least five servings a day of phytonutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, which should include apples and 100% apple juice.

Sue Taylor, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition communications for the Processed Apples Institute, said, "This latest study adds compelling new evidence that there is a positive association between health benefits and consumption of apple juice other apple products." She added, "This study gives consumers even more reason to choose a phytonutrient-rich beverage like 100% apple juice over less nutritious flavored beverages, even when eating fast food!"