An apple a day could prevent or delay around 8,500 deaths from heart attacks or strokes every year in the UK, according to new University of Oxford research.
The benefits of prescribing an apple a day to anyone over 50 would be similar to the health benefits from statins – a common drug used to lower cholesterol.
Researchers compared the effect of taking one statin a day with eating one apple a day, during medical trials and observations of hundreds of patients.
The study, published in the BMJ, calculated that if at least seven out of 10 patients followed advice, statins could save 9,400 lives and an apple a day could save 8,500 lives a year.
Dr Briggs, from the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group at Oxford University, said: "The Victorians had it about right when they came up with their brilliantly clear and simple public health advice: 'An apple a day keeps the doctor away'.
"It just shows how effective small changes in diet can be, and that both drugs and healthier living can make a real difference in preventing heart disease and stroke.
"While no-one currently prescribed statins should replace them for apples, we could all benefit from simply eating more fruit."