Health Benefits for Smokers

Healthy Eating Drives Benefits for Smokers: Study

We have reported often on the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables (here, here, and here). We also have reported often on the negative health aspects of smoking (here, here, and here). Today’s post puts the two together and provides important support for the benefits of a well-run workplace wellness program that focuses on diet, nutrition, and even smoking cessation.

The New York Times reports that “Each additional daily serving of fruits and vegetables that smokers and former smokers eat is associated with a 4 to 8 percent lower risk of their developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the third leading cause of death in the United States.”

The study is titled “Fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of COPD: a prospective cohort study of men” and was published in the February issue of Thorax. COPD is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The study states: “COPD is predicted by WHO to become the third cause of death worldwide. Oxidative stress induced by cigarette smoking is now recognised as a major predisposing factor in the pathogeneses of COPD. It was observed that antioxidant capacity in patients with COPD is substantially reduced as a result of cigarette smoking, with oxidative stress persisting long after the cessation of cigarette smoking, due to the continued endogenous production of reactive oxygen species. Thus, it can be hypothesised that high consumption of fruits and vegetables, a rich source of antioxidants, may protect the lung against oxidative damage and prevent COPD.”

It continues: “Recent evidence indicates that diet may play an important role in COPD development. More spe- cifically, a ‘prudent’ dietary pattern (ie, high con- sumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals and fish) in comparison with a ‘Western’ dietary pattern (ie, high consumption of white bread, pro- cessed meat, full-fat dairy products, sugar and chips) has been associated with a lower risk of impaired lung function and COPD. In a recently published prospective study, consumption of a healthy diet (high consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, polyunsaturated fatty acids, nuts and long chain omega-3 fats and low consumption of red and processed meat, refined grains and sugar sweetened drinks consumption) was associated with a lower risk of COPD in US men and women.”

The NYT piece describes the study, which “looked at more than 44,000 Swedish men, ages 45 to 79, who completed detailed health and dietary questionnaires. Nearly two-thirds had smoked at some point, and roughly one in four were current smokers.”

“Over the 13-year course of the study, 1,918 new cases of C.O.P.D. were identified. Men who ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day were 35 percent less likely to develop lung disease than those who ate two servings or less. There was no benefit for nonsmokers.”

The study concludes: “In this prospective cohort study of men, high fruit and vegetable consumption was inversely associated with COPD incidence among smokers, but not among non-smokers. The present findings confirm the strong impact of cigarette smoking on the development of COPD and also indicate that diet rich in fruit and vegetables may have an important role in prevention of COPD. Nevertheless, non-smoking and smoking cessation remain the main public health message to prevent development of COPD.”