A diet rich in fruits can slow down the lung's natural aging process in both smokers and non-smokers. [Photo: Bigstock]

Apples and tomatoes help heal the lungs

9 January, 2018

Natural Health News If you are an ex-smoker, a diet rich in fruits such as apples and tomatoes could help restore lung damage caused by smoking.

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

The researchers from Imperial College London and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health 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.

What you need to know

» Smoking can hasten the natural decline in lung function that comes with age.

» However, a new study from UK and US researchers has found that fresh fruits and vegetables can help slow or even repair some of the damage caused by smoking.

» Daily portions of fresh tomatoes and apples were particularly effective for both smokers and non-smokers.

Participants from three European countries – Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom – completed questionnaires assessing their diets and overall nutritional intake. They also underwent spirometry, a procedure that measures the capacity of lungs to take in oxygen.

Results published in the European Respiratory Journal found that adults who on average ate more than two tomatoes or more than three portions of antioxidant-rich 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 benefits persisted even after controlling for factors such as age, height, sex, body mass index (an indicator of obesity), socio-economic status, physical activity and total energy intake.

Fresh is best

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.

Among former smokers, the diet-lung-function connection was particularly striking, with apples and tomatoes being particularly effective, but improvements were seen in all adults surveyed including those who had never smoked.

“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 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.”