Feb. 5, 2001 Here's some dietary advice you can take to heart. A persimmon a day does more to reduce the risk of heart disease - the leading cause of death in the United States - than an apple.
A head-to-head comparison of the two fruits by an international group of researchers found persimmons contain significantly higher concentrations of dietary fiber, minerals and phenolic compounds - all instrumental in fighting atherosclerosis, a leading cause of heart disease, heart attacks and stroke. The study appears in the February 1 Web edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The monthly peer-reviewed journal is published by the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
This is the first comparative study of persimmons and apples that evaluates their anti-atherosclerosis capabilities, says lead researcher Shela Gorinstein, Ph.D., a research associate with the department of medicinal chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.
The relatively high contents of fibers, phenolics, minerals and trace elements "make persimmon preferable for an anti-atherosclerotic diet," Gorinstein and her colleagues concluded. A previous study by the researchers showed that persimmons improved lipid metabolism in rats.
Many persimmons contained twice as much dietary fiber as apples. The peels of both fruits had higher fiber levels than the pulp or the whole fruit, according to the findings. Persimmons also contained more of the major phenolics (antioxidants) than apples.
Persimmons had significantly higher levels of sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and manganese. Apples had higher overall concentrations of copper and zinc.
Eating one medium-sized persimmon (about 100 grams) a day is enough to help fight atherosclerosis, says Gorinstein. She is quick to add that other fruits also help guard against heart disease and urges people to include them in their diet as well.
Persimmons, a very popular fruit in Israel, were chosen because they contain a "high percentage of polyphenols, especially tannins, which are very good antioxidants," said Gorinstein. Other researchers involved in the study were from Jagiellonian University in Poland, the University of Lleida in Spain, the Kaplan Medical Center in Israel, and the Israeli Ministry of Health.
The persimmon tree, which produces the reddish-orange fruit, was first cultivated in China thousands of years ago, and is now grown in many countries. China, Japan, Brazil and Korea are the major producers. Israel, which has an expanding persimmon industry, grows a variety called Sharon Fruit. Although persimmon trees grow wild in many areas of the United States, most of the fruit grown for consumption in this country is of Japanese origin.
Shela Gorinstein, Ph.D., is a research associate with the department of medicinal chemistry in the School of Pharmacy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.
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