Apples, pears and other fruits rich in certain plant compounds may help protect the lungs from chronic disease, researchers in the Netherlands have found. They suspect the benefit might come from catechins, a member of the flavonoids family of plant compounds. Flavonoids have already been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
Various flavonoids have been found to act as cell-protecting antioxidants, and some research suggests antioxidants may guard against lung disease.
Investigators from the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment in Bilthoven analyzed data on nearly 14,000 adults in a study on risk factors for chronic disease. They looked at the relationship between intake of different flavonoids and symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as chronic coughing and breathlessness. COPD includes two serious lung diseases--chronic bronchitis and emphysema--for which cigarette smoking is the biggest risk factor.
The investigators found that people with higher catechin intakes had a lower risk of chronic cough and breathlessness, even after smoking, age, body mass and other factors were considered. The main catechin sources for the study participants were tea and apples. Yet when the researchers looked at tea alone, they found no relationship between higher consumption and lower lung disease risk. On the other hand, greater intake of apples and pears was linked to healthier lung function.
In the group with the highest catechin intake, half of the participants consumed more than 20 milligrams of the substance each day. According to the researchers, there are about 15 milligrams of catechins in two apples.
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