Apple of the future made in Auckland

An apple a day really could help keep the doctor away for diabetes patients.

Auckland scientists are developing an apple which they hope could help support healthy blood sugar levels.

Although the apples might look ordinary, they're anything but. They're being grown by scientist Andrew Dare in a secure test lab at Plant and Food Research.

"We're working on the health compounds in them, how to increase the levels of health compounds in apples and trying to manipulate these compounds to try and get them higher in the fruit."

Dr Dare is particularly interested in a compound called phloridzin, which could significantly help reduce blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes.

"We're certainly not making any health claims on this. It's more about managing these health conditions. We're not going to replace drugs, the three therapies for type 2 diabetes are exercise, diet and drugs, and we kind of fit into the diet part of it to try and maximise the potential of these fruit."

Phloridzin is only found in significant quantities in the leaves of apples. What they're trying to do is concentrate it in the fruit.

The apples will be harvested and tested in February, and it's hoped they could contain Phloridzin levels 10 to 50 times higher than in supermarket varieties.

"We know that we should eat fruit and vegetables and we know that the Government messages about eating our colours and five a day," Plant and Food Research scientist Dr Richard Espley says. "So we'd like to make that fruit even better for you."

Although they're full of promise, this is forbidden fruit.

Even when the apples are ripe they cannot be eaten as it's against the law in New Zealand to consume genetically-engineered produce.

"The plants in here are modified," says Dr Dare. "These stay in the greenhouse… this is basically an extension of our laboratory if you like."

But they hope the science will help apple breeders in the future grow a next generation fruit, that not only looks and tastes good, but is better for us too.