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, says a study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The findings of the study suggest certain components in these foods might help in restoring lung damage which was caused by smoking.
According to the results of the study, published in the December issue of the European Respiratory Journal, adults who eat more than two tomatoes or more than three portions of fresh fruit a day had a slower decline in lung function compared to those who eat less than one tomato or less than one portion of fruit a day, respectively.
However, the protective effect was only observed in fresh fruit and vegetables, not in other dietary sources such as cooked dishes and processed foods containing fruits and vegetables or tomato sauce.
A slower decline in lung function was found among all adults with the highest tomato consumption, including those who had never smoked or had stopped smoking, according to the results of the paper. It also found that poor lung function has been linked with mortality risks from all diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and lung cancer.
In 2002, researchers investigated the diet and lung function of more than 650 adults to reach the findings of the study. They also repeated lung function tests on the same group of participants from three European countries: Germany, Norway, and the United Kingdom, 10 years later.
“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 ageing process even if you have never smoked,” says Vanessa Garcia-Larsen, assistant professor at Bloomberg School’s Department of International Health and the study’s lead author. She added that “the findings support the need for dietary recommendations, especially for people at risk of developing respiratory diseases such as COPD.”
“Lung function starts to decline at around the age of 30 at variable speed depending on the general and specific health of individuals, and 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 the rising diagnosis of COPD around the world,” explained Garcia-Larsen in the press release published on Eureka Alert.