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. Fruits and vegetables are the key, as eating apples and tomatoes can fix lung damage and delay their aging.
After exploring the good chemicals found in these fruits and vegetables, they discovered the optimal effect is achieved after eating two tomatoes and three apples per day. Specifically, adults who ate more than two tomatoes or more than three portions of fresh fruit a day experienced a slower decline in lung function than those who ate fewer fruits. "It also suggests that a diet rich in fruits can slow down the lung's natural aging process even if you have never smoked", Vanessa Garcia-Larsen, the assistant professor at Bloomberg School's Department of International Health as well as lead author of the study said. The scientists assessed diet and lung function of more than 650 adults in 2002; they repeated lung function tests on the same participants 10 years later.
"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.
Additionally they were given a spirometry test that measures how much oxygen their lungs can take in. The study controlled for factors such as age, height, sex, body mass index (an indicator of obesity), socio-economic status, physical activity and total energy intake. But it turns out, beyond quitting, there are other steps former smokers can take to help fix their lungs - and that includes a diet rich in tomatoes and apples.
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Even the people who never smoked benefitted from eating generous amounts of tomatoes. The lungs start suffering damage around the age of 30, but the results showed that healthy eating could combat these harmful effects.
Poor lung function has been linked with a higher risk of death from all diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and lung cancer.
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 participants from Germany, Norway and United Kingdom were given questionnaires that analysed diets and nutrition.
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