A Healthy Diet for Lung Disease May Lower Risk

healthy diet for lung diseaseGood news! New research suggests that cutting down on red and processed meats, refined foods, and sugar-sweetened drinks, and loading up on whole grains, polyunsaturated fats, and nuts may lower your risk of chronic lung disease.  Although COPD treatment efforts should continue to focus on smoking cessation, understanding how diet impacts the development of COPD is an important step toward prevention of the disease.

The Study

It’s common knowledge that a healthy diet reduces the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Until now, the role that healthy nutrition plays in COPD prevention has been unclear.

In a study published in British Medical Journal, researchers set out to assess the risk of developing COPD against the Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010 (AHEI-2010), a tool that measures the quality of one’s diet based on current, scientific knowledge.

The AHEI-2010 diet score focuses on 11 essential elements. A high score reflects a higher intake of vegetables, whole grains, polyunsaturated fats, nuts, certain omega-3 fatty acids, moderate alcohol consumption, and a low intake of red and processed meats, refined grains and sugary drinks. Study participants included 120,245 nurses in the United States who completed a health questionnaire every 2 years.

Between 1984 and 2000, researchers identified 723 new cases of COPD. Study results concluded that people with the healthiest diet (based on AHEI-2010 diet scores) had a 32% less chance of developing COPD, compared to people with the least healthy diet. Researches emphasized that this was equivalent to the risk reduction gained from quitting smoking or not smoking at all.

The Importance of a Healthy Lifestyle

Although smoking cessation is the single most important prevention method for COPD and other long-term health conditions, this study is one of the few that supports the importance of healthy nutrition in the fight against COPD.

Honorary medical adviser for the British Lung Foundation, Dr. Nick Hopskinson stated: “By far the most important thing that someone diagnosed with COPD can do to slow the progression of the disease is to quit smoking. However, regular exercise and a healthy diet can also make a positive impact. A healthy lifestyle is as important for your lung health as it is for your heart or any other part of your body. This research serves to further emphasise how a good diet, together with regular physical activity and avoiding smoking, is important for preventing ill health.”


Varraso Raphaëlle, Chiuve Stephanie E, Fung Teresa T, Barr R Graham, Hu Frank B, Willett Walter C et al. “Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010 and risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among US women and men: prospective study.” BMJ 2015; 350 :h286.

by Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN

6 thoughts on “A Healthy Diet for Lung Disease May Lower Risk”

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