The advice to eat an apple a day first appeared in print in 1866. Nearly 150 years later, a medical journal has used the excuse of April Fool’s Day to publish a study that asks seriously whether this wisdom really does keep the doctor away.
The daily apple eaters in the study were more likely to successfully avoid prescription medication use than people who did not eat apples.
The study tells us that the “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” aphorism was coined in 1913 but was based on the original form with a different rhyme, some 149 years ago in Wales: “Eat an apple on going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread,” went the proverb in Pembrokeshire.
The University of Michigan School of Nursing researchers in Ann Arbor believe giving such medical proverbs an empirical evaluation “may allow us to profit from the wisdom of our predecessors.”
For the study’s measure of keeping the doctor away, Matthew Davis, PhD, and co-authors evaluated an outcome of no more than one visit a year to the doctor as a means of investigating the proverb’s success in daily apple eaters compared with non-apple eaters.
So did a daily apple succeed in keeping the doctor away? No, it did not. There was no statistically meaningful difference in visits to the doctor for daily apple eaters in the analysis. But the study did find that an apple a day kept the pharmacist away.