Consuming a diet rich in whole grains, polyunsaturated fats and nuts, and low in red and processed meat, refined grains and sugary drinks, helps keep the lungs healthy and disease free, according to researchers based in France and the USA. A rich diet is associated with a lower risk of chronic lung disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD), such as emphysema and bronchitis, which block the airways and restrict oxygen flow around the body, which is currently ranked the third leading cause of death worldwide.
A team of researchers set out to investigate the association between the Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010 (AHEI-2010), a measure of diet quality based on current scientific knowledge, and the risk of COPD. They analyzed data for more than 120,000 US men and women participating in the Nurses' Health Study from 1984 to 2000 and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study from 1986 to 1998. The AHEI-2010 diet score is based on 11 components, with a higher score reflecting high intakes of vegetables, whole grains, polyunsaturated fats, nuts, and long chain omega-3 fats, moderate intake of alcohol, and low intakes of red and processed meats, refined grains, and sugar sweetened drinks.
During the study period, 723 cases of newly diagnosed COPD occurred in women and 167 in men. After adjusting for 12 factors like age, physical activity, body mass index, smoking and ethnicity, the risk of newly diagnosed COPD was 1/3 lower in participants who ate the healthiest AHEI-2010 diet compared with those who ate the least healthy diet. The findings were similar in ex-smokers and current smokers, and in both women and men.
The study has been published in The BMJ.