It’s been said for decades that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but there might be some credibility to this statement for people living with COPD. A recent study completed by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health indicates that daily intake of fruits and vegetables for ex-smokers may slow down lung function decline. The study indicated that people living with respiratory diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis who ate plenty of vegetables and fruits enjoyed a slower decline in lung function than those who bypass the produce aisle. Among perishables tested, tomato and apple were shown to benefit these patients the greatest.
The data was gathered by assessing the lung health and daily food intake of two fresh tomatoes or three-portions of raw fruit daily over a 10-year period. Measuring spirometry results of 650 adults in the UK, Norway, and Germany who completed testing over ten years, the testing showed that lung health was considerably better in people who consumed apples and tomatoes over those that did not.
“This study shows that diet might help repair lung damage in people who have stopped smoking. It also suggests that a diet rich in fruits can slow down the lung’s natural aging process even if you have never smoked,” stated the lead study author Vanessa Garcia-Larsen. “The findings support the need for dietary recommendations, especially for people at risk of developing respiratory diseases such as COPD.”
Garcia-Larsen and her team at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, evaluated diet and performed lung function tests, including spirometry, and discovered that the connection between diet and lung function was most pronounced among ex-smokers. When the volume of air they could inhale was measured, former smokers who consumed a tomato- and fruit-rich diet had around 80 milliliters slower decline in lung function over 10 years. This indicates that specific nutrients could be playing a role in healing the damage caused by smoking.
“Our study suggests that eating more fruits on a regular basis can help attenuate the decline as people age, and might even help repair damage caused by smoking. Diet could become one way of combating rising diagnosis of COPD around the world.”
The study also considered the reality that many COPD patients have never smoked. Dr. Vanessa Garcia-Larsen stated, “Lung function starts to decline at around age 30 at a variable speed depending on the general and specific health of individuals. This study shows that diet might help repair lung damage in people who have stopped smoking. A diet rich in fruits can slow down the lung’s natural aging process even if you have never smoked.”
Garcia-Larsen believes the research will push dietary recommendations for those at risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (or COPD) in a positive direction. COPD, she says, is on the rise. “Diet”, says Garcia-Larsen, “could become one way of combating rising diagnosis of COPD around the world.”