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ImageAn apple a day can really keep the doctor away - by reducing bad cholesterol levels in women, according to a new study.

Apples are truly a miracle fruit that convey benefits beyond fiber content, said Bahram H. Arjmandi, Margaret A. Sitton Professor and Chair, Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at The Florida State University, who led the study.

Animal studies have shown that apple pectin and polyphenols in apple improve lipid metabolism and lower the production of pro-inflammatory molecules.

Arjmandi's research is the first to evaluate the long-term cardio-protective effects of daily consumption of apple in postmenopausal women.

The study randomly assigned 160 women ages 45-65 to one of two dietary intervention groups: one received dried apples daily (75g/day for 1 year) and the other group ate dried prunes every day for a year.

Blood samples were taken at 3, 6 and 12-months.

The results surprised Arjmandi, who stated that 'incredible changes in the apple-eating women happened by 6 months - they experienced a 23 percent decrease in LDL cholesterol.

The daily apple consumption also led to a lowering of lipid hydroperoxide levels and C-reactive protein in those women.

"I never expected apple consumption to reduce bad cholesterol to this extent while increasing HDL cholesterol or good cholesterol by about 4 percent," said Arjmandi.

Yet another advantage is that the extra 240 calories per day consumed from the dried apple did not lead to weight gain in the women; in fact, they lost on average 3.3 lbs.

"Reducing body weight is an added benefit to daily apple intake" he said.

Part of the reason for the weight loss could be the fruit's pectin, which is known to have a satiety effect.

The results were presented at Experimental Biology 2011 in Washington, DC.