Prescribing an apple a day to adults aged 50 and over would prevent or delay around 8,500 vascular deaths such as heart attacks and strokes every year in the UK - similar to statin use, according to the study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

The study takes into account people who are already appropriately taking statins to reduce their risk of vascular disease and therefore the researchers stress that no-one currently taking statins should stop, although by all means eat more apples.

Using mathematical models a team of researchers at the University of Oxford analysed the effect on the most common causes of vascular mortality of prescribing either a statin a day to those not already taking one or an apple a day to everyone aged over 50 years in the UK.

The researchers assumed a 70 percent compliance rate and that overall calorie intake remained constant.     They calculate that offering a daily statin to 17.6 million more adults would reduce the annual number of vascular deaths by 9,400, while offering a daily apple to 70 percent of the total UK population aged over 50 years would avert 8,500 vascular deaths.

However, side-effects from statins mean that prescribing  statins to everyone over the age of 50 is predicted to lead to over a thousand extra cases of muscle disease (myopathy) and over ten thousand extra diagnoses of diabetes.

Additional modelling showed a further 3 per cent reduction in the annual number of vascular deaths when either apples or statins were prescribed to everybody aged over 30. However the number of adverse events is predicted to double.

"This study shows that small dietary changes as well as increased use of statins at a population level may significantly reduce vascular mortality in the UK," researchers said.

(Agencies)

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