Scientists at Plant & Food Research, one of the country's Crown Research Institutes, selected five cultivars rich in a range of 27 compounds thought to be beneficial to health. Extracts of the flesh and skin of each were analysed for their effect on various aspects of human inflammation.
This showed that apples with high levels of two families of compounds, named procyanidins and triterpenes, inhibited the activation of two molecules known to play a role in inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Group leader at the institute Dr William Laing said: "Understanding which compounds in apple influence pathways in disease such as IBD allows us to breed new varieties of apple with more of these compounds that can then be used as ingredients in foods specifically designed to control symptoms."
Researchers collaborated with a team at the Centre de Recherche Public Gabriel Lippmann in Luxembourg as part of the state-funded Nutrigenomics New Zealand programme to develop gene-specific foods that prevent, control or cure disease.
This latest research was published in the Washington DC-based Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry.