There's a new study that supports an age-old saying … eating an apple a day is good for you, helping to lower heart disease risk factors. The benefits of apples seem to be a reduction of cholesterol levels and a pair of other key marks that are linked with the formation of plaque and inflammation of artery walls.

While we've all heard that apples are good for us … researchers can not rest until they know precisely why this is. What particular substances might be locked inside that perfect package? Might we find it in other foods as well?

The latest study on apples registered 160 female subjects (45-65 years old) andave them either serving (75g) of discharged apples or dried prunes each day. The participants underwent blood tests to check for indicators of heart health at the 3-month, 6-month and 1 year point in the study.

At the end, the apple eating women saw total cholesterol fall by 14% on average, with LDL cholesterol going down by an average 23%. What's more, levels of a chemical that's part of the formation of plaques that clog the heart along with C-reactive protein, a well-known marker for inflammation both dropped by almost a third. The subjects eating apples even lost weight, about 3.3 pounds during the study period.

For our prune lovers out there … these women also saw some reduction in the heart health marks, but not nearly as much as the apple eaters did.

The apple's effect on bad (LDL) cholesterol was a particular surprise. By six months the apple-eating subjects were seeing a benefit. Apples, along with apple juice, have both shown us incredible benefits from the active components apples come by naturally.

A meta-analysis has also been done on 80 studies published after 2005 that make some pretty impressive claims on the benefits that an apple a day can bring. There's evidence that the tasty, crunchy fruit helps regulate blood sugar, control your appetite, safeguard the lungs and even protect the body from cancer.

So what's behind the apple's amazing benefits?

Apples are full of a soluble fiber called pectin, that blocks cholesterol absorption during digestion and pushes the body to metabolize (and not store) the waxy substance. The peels are also full of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that works to prevent damage to cells from free radicals.

The benefits of apples can be achieved by eating any color or variety, so long as you eat the whole fruit, skin and all. Natural sources of nutrients are always better than supplements or components, such as dried fruit in prepared packages. The whole has been proven, time and again, to be better. So no peeling. Seems like high time more of us recognized the truth behind the apple a day expression and made the healthy crunch part of our next snack.