It found that women on an ‘apple diet’ saw their cholesterol drop by almost a quarter in six months, while they also lost weight.
Dr Bahram Arjmandi, of the department of nutrition, food and exercise sciences at Florida University, described the results as “incredible”
In the study, 80 women aged 45 to 65 were asked to eat 75 grams of dried prunes a day for a year, and the other 80 were asked to eat the same amount of dried apple, in addition to their normal diets.
Blood samples were taken at the start of the study and at three, six and 12 months.
Dr Arjmandi said that “incredible changes in the apple-eating women happened by 6 months- they experienced a 23 per cent decrease in LDL cholesterol, which is known as the ‘bad cholesterol’.”
They also had lower levels of bio-markers linked to heart disease, such as C-reactive protein.
They also shed on average 3.3lbs (1.5kg).
Dr Arjamandi, who presented the research at the Experimental Biology conference in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, concluded that there was some truth in the old adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.
Apples have long been known to be a good source of fibre, but the study, funded by the US Department of Agriculture, added to evidence that they had additional health benefits which made them a “miracle fruit”.
Dr Arjamandi said: “Everyone can benefit from consuming apples.”
Previous studies have shown that apple pectin and compounds called polyphenols – also present in substances including blueberries, tea and dark chocolate – stimulate the breakdown of fats in the blood and reduce inflammation of vessel walls, which both reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.