The news that the antioxidants in wine can help keep the body healthy has done much to boost sales of the alcoholic drink the world over in recent years. Now cider makers are hoping that similar health claims will help them increase sales, too.
Apples have long been thought to have medicinal properties - after all, an apple a day is supposed to keep the doctor at bay - and these same properties have long been attributed to cider as well.
Until now there has been little in the way of scientific evidence to back up these claims, but recent research from Brewing Research International in the UK has confirmed that cider, like wine, contains high levels of beneficial antioxidants. A half pint of cider delivers the same amount of antioxidants as a glass of red wine, BRI scientists found.
Commenting on the research, Dr Caroline Walker of Brewing Research International, said: "A diet rich in antioxidants may help to protect against disease, and our research confirms cider has the same levels of antioxidants as red wine.
"It is clear that cider has a good dose of antioxidants, and as nutritionists recommend a healthy diet should include plenty of antioxidants, it could well be claimed that a glass of cider a day will keep the doctor away."
She continued: "For those who enjoy a glass of cider it is reassuring to know it may be healthy, too. But it is important that no-one drinks more than the recommended daily intake of alcohol, which for women is two to three units per day and three to four units for men. An average-strength cider has about 2.5 units per pint."
A second investigation into the benefits of cider drinking, this time by the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, showed that the antioxidants found in the drink are rapidly absorbed into the blood stream, enhancing their benefits. The research is published in the latest edition of the Journal of Nutrition.
John Thatcher, chairman of the UK's National Association of Cider Makers, said: "I have spent a lifetime making cider, enjoying a regular glass or two, and now I can enjoy it all the more knowing it is helping to keep me healthy. We have known for centuries that cider in moderation was good for you and it will be helpful to consumers to have this scientific confirmation."
Given that the international popularity of cider is far less than that of wine - its strongholds are parts of northern European such as the UK, Scandinavia and France, as well as the US and, increasingly, China - cider makers will obviously be keen to push the health benefits of the drink in the hope that it will raise interest in the drink.
A similar phenomenon was seen with red wine in Japan, where sales surged after the health properties of the drink were publicised.