updated 4/13/2011 7:18:10 PM ET 2011-04-13T23:18:10

An apple a day may do more than keep the doctor away — it can lower levels of bad cholesterol and improve levels of good cholesterol without causing weight gain in women, according to a new study.

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Women who ate 75 grams of dried apples every day for six months had a 23 percent decrease in bad LDL cholesterol, said study researcher Bahram H. Arjmandi, professor and chair of the department of nutrition at the Florida State University.

Their levels of good HDL cholesterol,also increased by about 4 percent, according to the study.

To see the effects apples had on women's health, Arjmandi and his colleagues randomly assigned 160 women ages 45 to 65 to one of two groups. One group ate 75 grams (roughly 2.64 ounces, or about a one-third of a cup) of dried apples every day for a year, and the other group ate another dried fruit for a year. Their blood samples were taken after three months, six months and then at the end of the study period.

At the end of the year-long period, the women who ate the apples had lower levels of bad cholesterol, lipid hydroperoxide (the product of toxic free radicals, which cause cell damage and death in the body) and C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation in the body, than when they started the study, researchers said.

Researchers also found that the extra 240 calories per day consumed from the dried apple did not lead to weight gain in the women — in fact, they lost an average of 3.3 pounds over the year, the study said.

Even though the people in the study ate dried apples, the effect would likely be the same if they ate fresh apples, too, said Keri Gans, a dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, who was not involved with the study.

Though it's hard to make an exact comparison, one cup of fresh apples would be about equivalent to a quarter cup of dried apples, Gans said. Their cholesterol-lowering benefits likely come from their high fiber content, which past research has shown can lower bad cholesterol levels, she said.

The study was presented today (April 12) at the meeting Experimental Biology 2011. The study was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Pass it on: Eating an apple a day for a year can decrease levels of bad cholesterol and won't lead to weight gain.

Follow MyHealthNewsDaily on Twitter @ MyHealth_MHND .

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