It’s a known fact that smoking adversely affects the body, particularly the lungs. However, a study discovered a way to reverse the damage caused by smoking. In particular, a diet rich in fresh fruits, such as tomatoes and apples could repair lung tissue and slow the natural aging process of the lungs.
A team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health evaluated the diet and lung function of over 650 adults in 2002 and conducted the same test to the group after 10 years. The individuals, who came from Germany, Norway, and the U.K., then answered a survey which measured their diets and overall nutritional intake. Moreover, they underwent a procedure called spirometry, which records how much oxygen the lungs can take.
The participants were tested to see how much air they could expel from their lungs – two instances were recorded: how much they could exhale in a second, and in six seconds. The researchers also considered other factors, which include age, height, sex, body mass index, socioeconomic status, physical activity, and total energy intake.
The findings of the study revealed that adults who, on average, ate more than two tomatoes or more than three portions of fresh fruit a day showed a slower decline in lung function than those who ate less than one tomato or a portion of fruit per day. The result also noted that adults who stopped smoking and ate a diet high in tomatoes and fruits had a slower decline in lung function in a ten-year period. This indicated that nutrients in their diets aid in repairing the damage caused by smoking. Additionally, the natural decline in lung function was slower in all participants who ate the most amount of tomatoes, even those who did not stop smoking.
“Lung function starts to decline at around age 30 at variable speed depending on the general and specific health of individuals,” according to Vanessa Garcia-Larsen, the study’s lead author. The research also presents the possibility of diet as a way to aid lung damage repair for people who have quit smoking. Moreover, a diet rich in fruits slows down lung aging for all people, even those who never smoked.
“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 [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] around the world.”
However, the researchers only saw the protective effect in fresh fruits and vegetables and not on other dietary sources, such as dishes and processed foods that contain fruits and vegetables, like tomato sauce.
“The findings support the need for dietary recommendations, especially for people at risk of developing respiratory diseases such as COPD,” she said.
The study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, was funded by the European Commission and led by Imperial College London.