– Scientists are reporting the first evidence that consumption of natural polyphenols extracted from Fuji red apples extends the average lifespan of test animals, and does so by 10 percent. The new results, obtained with fruit flies – stand-ins for humans in hundreds of research projects each year – bolster similar findings on apple antioxidants in other animal tests. The study appears in ACS’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Zhen-Yu Chen and colleagues note that damaging substances generated in the body, termed free radicals, cause undesirable changes believed to be involved in the aging process and some diseases. Substances known as antioxidants can combat this damage, but it is important to understand that there are different kinds of antioxidants and antioxidant systems in the body. The first line of antioxidant defense in the body is a group of cellular enzymes that includes superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT). Some natural antioxidants in food (e.g. certain polyphenols) seem to stimulate the body’s production of these beneficial cellular enzymes. Other food antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and some carotenoids, do absorb free radicals but over time get used up and must be replenished.

A previous study with other test animals hinted that an apple antioxidant could extend average lifespan. In the current report, the researchers studied whether different apple antioxidants, known as polyphenols, could do the same thing in fruit flies.

The researchers found that apple polyphenols not only prolonged the average lifespan of fruit flies but helped preserve their ability to walk, climb and move about. In addition, apple polyphenols turned on the genes that make SOD and CAT, and reversed the levels of various biochemical substances found in older fruit flies and used as markers for aging or age-related deterioration and approaching death. Chen and colleagues note that the results support those from other studies – including one in which women who often ate apples had a 13 to 22 percent decrease in the risk of heart disease – polish the apple’s popular culture image as a health food, and maybe now as an anti-aging functional food, too.

The complete article is available online free here:

Fuji apple polyphenols boost SOD, catalase, lifespan

Reference: Cheng Peng, et al. Apple Polyphenols Extend the Mean Lifespan of Drosophila melanogaster. J. Agric. Food Chem., 2011, 59 (5), pp 2097–2106. Publication Date (Web): February 14, 2011.