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

Pile of red apples and tomatoes

Not only the adequate intake of tomatoes improves the lung health but also helps the former smokers to fix the damage caused by tobacco.

The study also found a less risk of decline in lung functionality in those people who had never smoked or stopped smoking, along with following the diet. 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 team of researchers discovered that the magic number of tomatoes seemed to be two a day, while three servings of other fresh fruit slowed the decline, compared to the people who included less than one tomato or less than one serving of other fruit a day.

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 or had stopped smoking, with the highest tomato consumption.

"It's generally assumed that if you've smoked for 10 years or more there's no point in quitting because the damage is irreversible, but our study suggests that's not the case and eating more fruits and tomatoes can actually help your lungs recover", says Garcia-Larsen.

The study, which is published in the European Respiratory Journal, analysed data from 680 people, those who signed up for a health survey in 2002, in Germany, England and Norway.

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These included Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), caused mainly by smoking.

Garcia-Larsen added that the findings also support the need for a greater focus on dietary recommendations, especially for people at risk of developing respiratory diseases such as COPD.

Additionally they were given a spirometry test that measures how much oxygen their lungs can take in. The study controlled for age, height, sex, body mass index, socioeconomic status, physical activity, and total energy intake. Given that lung function starts to get worse around the age of 30, this is good news for everyone. 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.

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.

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