Most of us take breathing for granted. But for folks who suffer from decreased lung capacity the phrase “take a deep breath” is nothing but a cruel joke.
Chronic lung diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma can rob people of lung function, making breathing anything but easy.
And troubled breathing isn’t the only problem these folks face, either. Those same breathing issues also leave them at a much higher risk of death from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), lung cancer and heart disease.
In other words, decreased lung function is a killer.
Lung function declines with age
Smokers and ex-smokers are at the most risk for a serious drop in lung function of course. But it turns out all of us experience a natural drop as we age. Making breathing just a bit more work with every passing year.
But an exciting new study has revealed a simple way for all of us…. even ex-smokers… to breathe easier. And all it requires is regular trips to the produce aisle.
Researchers used extensive questionnaires and spirometry—a simple test to measure lung volume and flow—to test the lung function of a group of ex-smoker volunteers. Then a decade later, they retested their lung function.
And when they crunched the data, the researchers were blown away.
Fresh fruits boost lung function
Former smokers who ate more fresh fruits… especially two in particular… had managed to put the brakes on declining lung function. Their drops in function were far slower than the ex-smokers who weren’t so fond of fruit.
And the effect was so powerful that in some cases the produce lovers even RESTORED some of their lost lung function.
The ex-smokers who ate, on average, more than three portions of fruit daily saw significantly slower declines in lung function than those who ate less than one portion a day.1
And two fruits led the pack…
But no matter your fruit preference, eating at least three portions every day can help protect your lungs. In fact, the researchers referred to the link between diet and lung function as “striking.” High praise from normally reserved scientists.
Breathe easier with flavonoids
And remember, not just ex-smokers benefit. We can all support our lungs by eating more fruit. According to the lead author on the new study, a diet that’s rich in tomatoes and other fruits can slow natural lung aging even in those of us who’ve taken a puff.
But at the same time, if you were a smoker it could help fix some of the lung damage the habit caused. And we likely owe it to something we’ve talked about many times before here in Healthier Talk, flavonoids or plant pigments.
These nutrient powerhouses are potent antioxidants and natural inflammation fighters. And we already know they have the ability to reduce your risk for a number of other chronic conditions from dementia to heart problems.
Two kinds of flavonoids—flavones and flavan-3-ols—are particularly powerful when it comes to reducing free-radical damage in cells and body tissues (like those damaged lungs). And it’s no coincidence that the two foods that topped the list of lung-function fixers contain plenty of them. Tomatoes are a terrific source of flavones. And apples are rich in flavan-3-ols.
Boost lung function, and protect your precious lungs for years to come, by eating more lung-friendly fruits.
1. “Dietary antioxidants and 10-year lung function decline in adults from the ECRHS survey,” European Respiratory Journal 2017 50: 1602286; DOI: 10.1183/13993003.02286-2016