They say that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but it may keep the fat away as well. According to a new study published in the journal PLOS One, an ingredient concentrated in the outer peel of apples may help to keep body fat in check. Researchers are also intrigued by this waxy substance called ursolic acid because of its possible anti-cancer benefits. Could ursolic acid be the reason eating an apple is so good for your health?
Ursolic Acid: Can It Boost Your Metabolism?
Researchers from the University of Iowa recently discovered that mice supplemented with ursolic acid from apple peels gained significantly less weight when they ate a high-fat diet compared to mice that ate a similar diet minus ursolic acid. Even more compelling, the mice that got ursolic acid in their diet developed more brown fat. Brown fat is an inefficient form of fat that produces heat and wasted energy instead of depositing itself on your hips, thighs, and tummy. This metabolically-active fat is found in greater quantities in babies, where it helps them conserve heat, and thin people and has been linked with lower body weight. Most adults have small amounts of brown fat in their upper chest, and it can be turned on by factors such as cold exposure and exercise.
The mice that were supplemented with ursolic acid had other surprising health benefits. Their lean body mass and strength increased on the supplement. If this holds true in humans, don’t be surprised to find ursolic acid or apple peel extract in sports supplements and protein powders. Of course, these benefits may or may not apply to humans, and it’s unlikely you’ll gain muscle by eating an apple a day. Most likely you would have to take an apple extract or ursolic supplement (and strength-train as well) Still, apples have other health benefits that make them a good addition to a healthy diet.
Other Health Benefits of Apples
Apples are an excellent source of pectin, a fiber-like substance that increases satiety so you’re less likely to reach for a less healthy snack after eating one. In one study, researchers gave normal-weight men and women an apple before they sat down to a dinner of high-calorie cheese tortellini. Those who munched on the apple first ate 187 fewer calories. Eating an apple before a meal may help you eat fewer calories.
Apples also contain antioxidant compounds called flavonoids that are linked with a lower risk of health problems such as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. Apples provide double protection against heart disease because of their combination of flavonoids and fiber. Research also suggests that ingredients in apples can help asthmatics breathe a little easier.
The Best Way to Eat Apples
Skip the applesauce and apple juice, and enjoy your apples raw with the peel still on. Many of the flavonoids, including ursolic acid, reside in the outer skin. Plus, you’ll miss out on the fiber if you drink a cup of apple juice. Not to mention the apple juice is a more concentrated source of fructose sugar.
The Bottom Line?
Apples have a lot going for them, and they may help you get a leaner physique. Skip the high-calorie desserts and munch on an apple after a meal – and reap the many health benefits that apples offer.
Nutraingredients.com “Apple Peel Compound May Offer Obesity Promise”
Nutritional Journal 3:5 (2004)
USA Today. “Apple a Day Keeps the Calories Away”