Eating 5+ fruits & vegetables per day may curb lung disease

March 20, 2017 in Healthy Eating, Nutrition for Older Adults, Nutrition Topics in the News

Eating 5+ fruits &  vegetables per day may curb lung disease

For current and former smokers, eating more fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a study from Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden suggests.

Among more than 40,000 men studied, current smokers who averaged five or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily were 40 percent less likely to develop COPD than smokers who ate two servings or less. Each additional serving of fruits and greens was tied to an 8 percent risk reduction.

What is COPD?

COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a category of lung diseases that make breathing difficult and can cause wheezing or coughing. The most common types of COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and they most often occur in smokers and former smokers.

COPD develops over time. In most cases, COPD is diagnosed in people over 40 years of age. Someone with COPD may not realize that they are becoming more short of breath until it becomes very hard to do simple tasks like walking up stairs.

The antioxidants found in produce might help to protect lungs from smoking damage, the researchers suspect.

The team studied data on 44,335 middle-aged and older Swedish men. None of the men included in the analysis had been diagnosed with COPD at the first assessment.

At the start of the study, the participants completed questionnaires detailing how often they ate different types of foods, including fruits and vegetables, as well as their smoking history. Researchers followed the men from 1998 to 2012 and used a patient registry to determine if they were diagnosed with COPD during the study period.

The research team divided participants into five groups according to how many servings of fruit and vegetables they ate daily. The top fifth ate more than five servings per day, while the bottom fifth ate less than two servings daily.

Apples, pears, leafy greens, peppers beneficial

After separating them again by smoking status, researchers found a significantly lowered risk of COPD tied to high fruit and vegetable consumption among smokers and former smokers, but not among never-smokers.

Ex-smokers with high consumption of produce were 34 percent less likely to develop COPD than ex-smokers with low fruit and vegetable consumption.

When researchers analyzed the types of produce tied to lower COPD risk, they found an association with apples, pears, leafy greens and peppers but not with berries, citrus, tomatoes or onions.

Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables are thought to shield the lungs from harmful substances in cigarette smoke and air pollution.

Easting plenty of fruit and vegetables each day not only reduces the risk of chronic lung disease, but also guards against heart disease, stroke, cancer and early death.

Source: Thorax, online February 22, 2017.

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