A study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found the 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, suggesting certain components in these foods might help restore lung damage caused by smoking.
The researchers found that adults who on average 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, respectively. 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.
The paper, which is part of the Ageing Lungs in European Cohorts (ALEC) Study, funded by the European Commission and led by Imperial College London, also found a slower decline in lung function among all adults, including those who had never smoked or had stopped smoking, with the highest tomato consumption. Poor lung function has been linked with mortality risks from all diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and lung cancer.
The findings appear in the December issue of the European Respiratory Journal.
“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,” says Dr. 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.”