Smoking causes long-term damage and effects to a person's lungs, and while they do heal overtime, the lungs never fully recover if they've been through excessive amounts of smoking. That's why there's a saying that goes: "The best time to quit smoking was years ago."
Yet new evidence indicates that eating certain foods may help heal and slow the declining function of lungs, and it applies to both smokers and non-smokers.
Tomatoes And Other Fruits May Help Repair Lungs
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University discovered that tomatoes and fruits, specifically apples, were able to slow down the rate at which people's lungs declined over a 10-year period, suggesting that these fruits share nutrients that improve lung health.
The findings of the European Commission-funded study appear in the December issue of the European Respiratory Journal.
"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," said Vanessa Garcia-Larsen, lead author of the study and an assistant professor at the Department of International Health of Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The researchers analyzed the diet and lung function of over 650 adults in 2002. Then they performed repeated lung function tests on the same set of participants a decade later. Some of them answered questionnaires about dietary information. They also had spirometry performed, a test to measure the lungs' capacity to store oxygen.
How Many Should You Eat Per Day?
They discovered that eating two tomatoes a day and three servings of other fresh fruits like apples slowed lung decline among the participants. Those who ate less than one serving of fruit or tomato per day did not show the same results.
Even participants who have never smoked saw benefits from eating many tomatoes each day, according to the study. This is exciting news, because even though non-smokers have healthier lungs than smokers, the lungs still decline overtime as people age.
According to Garcia-Larsen, lung function begins to decline at age 30, depending of course on many health factors. The study indicates that eating tomatoes and a healthy serving of fruits each day will "attenuate" the decline, and it might even aid repair damage from smoking.
"Diet could become one way of combating rising diagnosis of [Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] around the world," Garcia-Larsen said.
One Thing To Keep In Mind
But wait — there's something to keep in mind here. While the study says a diet that includes tomatoes and fruits may help alleviate lung decline, that doesn't mean all tomatoes qualify. Processed tomato products found on pizza and spaghetti, for instance, won't do the trick. Only fresh fruit products will do the trick, sorry.
So, start eating fresh tomatoes!