Those who eat organic apples, core and all, get 10 times the bacteria

24 Jul 2019

Image: Gareth Fuller/PA Media

A new study suggests organic apples harbour more diverse and balanced bacteria than conventional apples.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away – and planting up to 100m bacteria in your gut could be one of the reasons. Researchers have looked at the bacterial community of various apples and found that anyone who eats the core, seeds included, consumes all of the bacteria – but for those who only eat the flesh, the intake falls to about 10m.

A new study, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, suggests organic apples harbour a more diverse and balanced bacterial community than conventional apples.

Prof Gabriele Berg, of Graz University of Technology in Austria, said: “The bacteria, fungi and viruses in our food transiently colonise our gut. Cooking kills most of these, so raw fruit and veg are particularly important sources of gut microbes.”

Researchers compared the bacteria in conventional store-bought apples with those in visually matched fresh organic ones. They separately analysed the stem, peel, flesh, seeds and calyx – the straggly bit at the bottom where the flower used to be. Overall, organic and conventional apples were occupied by similar numbers of bacteria.

“Putting together the averages for each apple component, we estimate a typical 240g apple contains roughly 100m bacteria,” said Berg.

Although this amount was the same, the bacterial composition was significantly different in conventionally and organically produced apples. According to the study, the majority of the bacteria are in the seeds, with the flesh accounting for most of the remainder.

Organic tastes sweeter

The scientists also looked at whether the bacteria was good or bad, and found that the organic fruit seemed to have the edge.

Berg said: “Freshly harvested, organically managed apples harbour a significantly more diverse, more even and distinct bacterial community, compared to conventional ones.

“This variety and balance would be expected to limit overgrowth of any one species, and previous studies have reported a negative correlation between human pathogen abundance and microbiome diversity of fresh produce.”

Specific groups of bacteria known for health-affecting potential also weighed in favour of organic apples. Escherichia-Shigella, a group of bacteria that includes known pathogens – disease-causing micro-organisms – was found in most of the conventional apple samples, but not in organic apples.

However, for Lactobacilli, which is often used in probiotics, the reverse was true. The researchers also offer some vindication to those who claim they can taste the difference in organic produce. Methylobacterium, known to enhance the biosynthesis of strawberry flavour compounds, was significantly more abundant in organic apples, the study found.


– PA Media