Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away?

We decided to see if this old saying was true. And, lo and behold, there actually was a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2015, titled “Association between Apple Consumption and Physician Visits.”

“The aphorism ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ originated in Wales,” these researchers reported. It first appeared in a publication in 1866 in the format, “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”

But just because a saying has been around for 150 years doesn’t mean it’s valid.

So the researchers decided to look at the self-reported diets of 8,728 adults to see if those who ate at least one small apple a day avoided extra trips to the doctor. Over the course of a year, they found that apple eaters really didn’t visit their doctors less often than non-apple eaters.

They did find, however, that the daily apple eaters tended to use fewer prescription medications, which led one author to comment that “there may be merit to saying, ‘An apple a day keeps the pharmacist away.’ ”

Still, the original saying has its defenders. According to a more recent review on this topic by registered dietitian Kristin Sementelli, an apple a day — along with other healthful habits — can go a long way to help keep the doctor away.

Here are some reasons worth noting:

• Apples are nutrient-dense. That means we get a high dose of nutrients relative to the number of calories consumed in eating the food. For just 95 calories in one medium (3-inch-diameter) apple, we get essential nutrients like vitamin C and potassium.

• Apples are a good source of soluble fiber — the type that helps lower blood cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber also helps fill a hungry tummy with no extra calories; so foods high in soluble fiber can be effective weight-loss tools. Just make sure to eat your apples with the skin; that’s where much of the soluble fiber resides.

• Apples may guard against diabetes. Naturally occurring phytochemicals in apples have been implicated as possible disease fighters, according to some research projects. One study that looked at the diets of more than 10,000 men and women in Finland found that eating more apples was associated with a lower incidence of Type 2 diabetes.

• Apples — and other fruits and vegetables — are good for our bones. One small study found that women who snacked on fresh apples or apple sauce did not lose as much of the bone-building calcium in their urine compared with when they ate candy.

With apples, as well as other fruits, whole fruit (rather than juice) is where we get the fiber we need.