Ex-smokers can breathe new life into their lungs by eating more apples and tomatoes


Ex-smokers can breathe new life into their lungs by eating more apples and tomatoes

An apple a day and now, even a tomato, appears to be an effective means former smokers can use to repair their damaged lungs from years of smoking. This is from research finding that regular intake of these foods may help slow the natural decline in lung function in all adults who kicked the smoking habit.

This encouraging news is a study conducted at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and appearing in the European Respiratory Journal.  The study, spanning 10 years, found that adults who ate on average 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.  Other foods such as dishes or processed foods containing fruits and vegetables such as tomato sauce did not have the same protective effect – only fresh fruits and vegetables appear to have the advantage.

A part of this study also looked at all adults, including those who had never smoked or had stopped smoking.  Of those who had the highest tomato consumption, those participants also had a slower decline in lung function. 

Poor lung function has been linked with mortality risks from all disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and lung cancer.

For the study, researchers assessed diet and lung function of more than 650 adults in 2002 and then repeated lung function tests on the same group of participants 10 years later.  Three countries – Germany, Norway, and the United Kingdom – were the countries participants were from. Each participant completed questionnaires assessing their diets and overall nutritional intake.  Each also underwent spirometry, a procedure measuring the capacity of the lungs to take in oxygen.

What is known is that lung function begins to decline at around age 30 at different rates depending on the general and specific health of individuals.   The findings of this study showed that those eating more fruits on a regular basis help slow down decline in the lungs and possibly even help repair damage caused by smoking.  This suggests that diet could become one way of combating increasing diagnoses of COPD around the world,

Apples are well known for the many health benefits.  Eating the apple peel in particular is capable of improving endothelial function, blood pressure, and atherosclerosis which can reduce a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Tomatoes contain a phytonutrient called lycopene which may be preventive against the formation and the development of lung cancer.  Experimental studies have demonstrated that lycopene in tomatoes may inhibit the growth of several cultured lung cancer cells and prevent lung tumorigenesis in animal models through various mechanisms. 

In the meantime, whether a former smoker and one who has never smoked a cigarette in their life, should take note and incorporate more tomatoes and apples in their daily diet.