Breathing easy: Regular intake of apples and tomatoes could help lung function

Francis Osborne
December 24, 2017

So the ultimate question becomes could eating more fruits and vegetables help you live to a ripe old age?

If you have kicked the smoking habit but are anxious about the strength of your lungs, eating a lot of fresh tomatoes and fruits - especially apples - can slow your decline in lung function caused by your cigarettes, according to a study at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Following three new studies, scientists said consuming apples and tomatoes can help restore lung damage caused by smoking. 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 fresh fruit and vegetables. Talking about the study, co-author Vanessa Garcia-Larsen of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore said, "This study shows that diet might help fix lung damage in people who have stopped smoking".

The tomato also stood out in another respect: Ex-smokers who ate at least two tomatoes a day had a slower decline in lung function over the 10 years than those who didn't. Vanessa Garcia-Larsen, assistant professor in the Bloomberg School's department of global health and the study's lead author, said in a statement.

To do so, they examined the diet and lung function of more than 650 adults in 2002, following up with the individuals 10 years later.

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Poor lung functionality has been linked with chronic diseases like lung cancer, heart diseases and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD).

"In public health we're always very focused on treating a disease, but by advising people what to eat we have a unique opportunity to reduce the risk of disease incidence", said Garcia-Larsen. Meanwhile, the research was published in the European Respiratory Journal.

The researchers measured how much air each person could expel from their lungs in one second and how much they could inhale in six seconds. Questionnaires were given to the participants who belonged from Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom in order to analyse their diet and nutrition.

Other factors, such as the participants' age, height, weight, gender, income and level of physical activity, were taken into account in analysing any association between diet and lung health, the team said.

But she stressed that for people with actual lung illnesses, such as COPD, diet should be seen as a helpful adjunct to medication, not a substitute. The overall ALEC Study is led by Imperial College London and funded by the European Union.

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