This study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomerg School of Public Health may make many ex-smokers smile. Because it shows that the simple gesture of adopting “5 fruits and vegetables a day” can considerably improve lung capacity, which begins to decline from the age of 30.
Fresh fruits and vegetables: apples and tomatoes in the lead
The research team assessed the diet and lung function of more than 650 adults in 2002 and then 10 years later. Participants from three European countries – Germany, Norway and the UK – completed questionnaires assessing their diet and overall nutritional intake. They also underwent spirometry, to measure the ability of the lungs to absorb oxygen.
The results reveal that adults who ate an average of more than 2 tomatoes or more than 3 servings of fresh fruit (especially apples, bananas to a lesser extent) per day had a slower decline (80 ml on average over 10 years) of lung function, compared to those who ate less than one tomato or less than one serving of fruit per day, respectively.
The researchers also evaluated other food sources such as meals and processed foods containing fruits and vegetables (e.g. tomato sauce), but the protective effect was only observed in fresh fruits and vegetables and would be linked to their intake of specific antioxidants, to be better determined.
Attenuation of lung decline after 30 years even in non-smokers
The publication, which appeared in the latest issue of the European Respiratory Journal, comes from the Aging Lungs in European Cohorts (ALEC) study, funded by the European Commission and led by Imperial College of London. His observations also go further.
She found a slower decline in lung function in all adults, including those who had never smoked and ex-smokers, with the highest consumption of tomatoes. This finding is all the more interesting, as poor lung function has been linked to the risk of death from several diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and lung cancer.
For the authors, this study suggests that eating more fruit on a regular basis may help alleviate lung decline as people age, and may even help reverse the damage caused by smoking. The diet could therefore become a means of combating the increase in the diagnosis of COPD all over the world.
Garcia-Larsen et al: Dietary antioxidants and 10-year lung function decline in adults from the ECRHS survey. European Respiratory Journal, December 2017: 1602286.
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