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Diet Rich in Apples and Tomatoes May Help Repair Lungs of Ex-Smokers, Study Suggests

According to a study published in the European Respiratory Journal, a “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.” The researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggest that their findings support the idea that certain components in these foods could aid in the restoration of lung damage caused by smoking.

Jan2018image008Throughout the study, it was discovered that adults who “ate 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 ate less than one tomato or less than one portion of fruit a day.” When attempting to determine if other dietary sources, such as processed foods, containing these fruits and vegetables had the same effect, researchers discovered that the protective outcomes were “only observed in fresh fruit and vegetables.”

The study also revealed an association between a diet with high tomato consumption and a slow decline in lung function, even among adults who had stopped or never smoked.

"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 aging process even if you have never smoked," said 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."

In 2002, the research team evaluated the diet and lung function of over 650 adults located throughout Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom. After ten years, they repeated lung function tests on the same participants. Each individual was prompted to complete questionnaires that assessed both their diet and “overall nutritional intake.”

The diet-lung-function association was even more prevalent among previous smokers who consumed a diet that was high in tomatoes and fruits. These individuals had an approximately 80 milliliter slower decline during the study, according to spirometry tests taken during the study period, a procedure that measures the capacity of lungs to take in oxygen. Researchers claim that these findings reveal the fact that these nutrients play a role in helping repair lung damage resulting from smoking.

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

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