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An (organic) apple a day . . .

HEALTH

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, or so goes the old adage. Now scientists have an answer as to why: bacteria. An average apple contains more than a hundred million bacteria. Before you vow never to eat one again, be aware that bacteria isn’t all bad — indeed, some are good for us. “The bacteria, fungi and viruses in our food transiently colonise our gut,” says Professor Gabriele Berg from Graz University of Technology, Austria, and one of the authors of the research. “Cooking kills most of these, so raw fruit and veg are particularly important sources of gut microbes.”

And, according to Berg’s research, organic is best. “Freshly harvested, organically managed apples harbour a significantly more diverse, more even, and distinct bacterial community compared to conventional ones,” she says.


While previous studies have mapped the fungal content of apples, research into their bacterial makeup remains a relatively unchartered area. Further research is planned then “to confirm to what extent diversity in the food microbiome translates to gut microbial diversity and improved health outcomes”, says Birgit Wassermann, also from Graz University. It’s hoped, adds Wassermann, that bacterial content might one day appear on fresh food labels alongside other nutritional information. “The microbiome and antioxidant profiles of fresh produce may one day become standard nutritional information, displayed alongside macronutrients, vitamins and minerals to guide consumers.”

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