Diet rich in apples and tomatoes may help repair lungs of ex-smokers, study suggests

December 21, 2017, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Credit: Charles Rondeau/public domain

A study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found the natural decline in lung function over a 10-year period was slower among former smokers with a diet high in tomatoes and fruits, especially apples, suggesting certain components in these foods might help restore lung damage caused by smoking.

The researchers found that adults who on average ate more than two tomatoes or more than three portions of fresh fruit a day had a slower decline in function compared to those who ate less than one tomato or less than one portion of a day, respectively. The researchers inquired about other dietary sources such as dishes and processed foods containing fruits and vegetables (e.g. tomato sauce) but the protective effect was only observed in and vegetables.

The paper, which is part of the Ageing Lungs in European Cohorts (ALEC) Study, funded by the European Commission and led by Imperial College London, also found a slower decline in lung function among all adults, including those who had never or had stopped smoking, with the highest tomato consumption. Poor lung function has been linked with mortality risks from all diseases, including chronic (COPD), heart disease, and .

The findings appear in the December issue of the European Respiratory Journal.

"This study shows that diet might help repair 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," says Vanessa Garcia-Larsen, assistant professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of International Health and the study's lead author. "The findings support the need for dietary recommendations, especially for people at risk of developing respiratory diseases such as COPD."

For the study, the research team assessed diet and lung function of more than 650 adults in 2002, and then repeated lung function tests on the same group of participants 10 years later. Participants from three European countries—Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom—completed questionnaires assessing their diets and overall nutritional intake. They also underwent spirometry, a procedure that measures the capacity of lungs to take in oxygen.

The test collects two standard measurements of lung function: Forced Exhaled Volume in 1 second (FEV1), which measures how much air a person can expel from their lungs in one second; and Forced Vital Capacity (FVC), the total amount of air a person can inhale in 6 seconds. The study controlled for factors such as age, height, sex, body mass index (an indicator of obesity), socio-economic status, physical activity and total energy intake.

Among former smokers, the diet- connection was even more striking. Ex-smokers who ate a high in tomatoes and fruits had around 80 ml slower decline over the ten-year period. This suggests that nutrients in their diets are helping to repair damage done by smoking.

"Lung function starts to decline at around age 30 at variable speed depending on the general and specific health of individuals," explains Garcia-Larsen "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."

Explore further: Fruit and veg-rich diet linked to much lower risk of chronic lung disease (COPD)

More information: "Dietary antioxidants and ten-year lung function decline in adults from the ECRHS survey"European Respiratory Journal (2017).

Related Stories

Fruit and veg-rich diet linked to much lower risk of chronic lung disease (COPD)

February 22, 2017
A diet rich in fruit and vegetables is linked to a significantly lower risk of developing chronic lung disease (COPD) in former and current smokers, finds research published online in the journal Thorax.

Menopause linked to accelerated decline in lung function

April 19, 2017
(HealthDay)—Menopause is associated with accelerated decline in lung function, according to a study published in the April 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Lung function decline accelerates in menopausal women

December 2, 2016
Menopausal women appear to experience an accelerated decline in lung function, according to new research published online ahead of print in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care ...

Physical activity may help preserve lung function in individuals with asthma

October 3, 2016
In a study of adults with asthma, active individuals had slightly less lung function decline than inactive individuals.

HRT can slow decline in lung function for middle-aged women

September 12, 2017
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can slow the decline in lung function in middle-aged women, according to new research presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress today.

Another menopause side effect: shortness of breath?

December 13, 2016
(HealthDay)—As if hot flashes and night sweats weren't enough, a new study suggests that a woman's lung function seems to decline during menopause.

Recommended for you

Polio: Environmental monitoring will be key as world reaches global eradication

October 15, 2018
Robust environmental monitoring should be used as the world approaches global eradication of polio, say University of Michigan researchers who recently studied the epidemiology of the 2013 silent polio outbreak in Rahat, ...

Study traces hospital-acquired bloodstream infections to patients' own bodies

October 15, 2018
The most common source of a bloodstream infection acquired during a hospital stay is not a nurse's or doctor's dirty hands, or another patient's sneeze or visitor's cough, but the patient's own gut, Stanford University School ...

Researchers make essential imaging tests safer for people at risk of acute kidney injury

October 15, 2018
Every year, millions of people undergo medical tests and procedures, such as coronary angiography, which use intravascular contrast dyes. "For the majority of patients, these are safe and necessary procedures. However, about ...

Medical marijuana might help MS patients, but uncertainty remains

October 13, 2018
Medical products derived from marijuana might have a mild benefit in treating symptoms of multiple sclerosis, based on reports from patients.

Do not give decongestants to young children for common cold symptoms, say experts

October 11, 2018
Decongestants should not be given to children under 6—and given with caution in children under 12—as there is no evidence that they alleviate symptoms such as a blocked or runny nose, and their safety is unclear, say ...

New techniques can detect Lyme disease weeks before current tests

October 11, 2018
Researchers have developed techniques to detect Lyme disease bacteria weeks sooner than current tests, allowing patients to start treatment earlier.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.