Image of a doctor in white coat and stethoscope holding an apple to camera

People who regularly consume foods containing a dietary compound called flavonoids may lower their risk of developing frailty by 20%, according to new research. 

Investigators studied data from 1,700 people in the Framingham Heart Study — Offspring Cohort to look for links between flavonoid intake and frailty onset. No participants had frailty at baseline, but 13% had developed frailty by a 12-year check-in. 

The total intake of flavonoid-containing foods was not significantly tied to the development of frailty, they found. But intake of flavonols, a subgroup of these compounds — and in particular quercetin — was associated with lower odds of frailty onset.

For every 10 mg higher intake of flavonols per day, the odds of frailty appeared to be reduced by 20%. One medium-sized apple has about 10 mg of flavonols, making the goal of incorporating these foods into a daily diet fairly simple, the researchers reported.

“There may be some validity to the old saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor — or frailty — away,” they concluded. 

Foods with relatively high levels of quercetin include apples, onions, parsley, tea and red wine. In addition, olive oil, blackberries, citrus fruits, grapes, dark cherries and dark berries such as blueberries and blackberries also contain these compounds, according to the Mount Sinai health library.

The study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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