A new study suggests eating tomatoes and apple could help heal ex-smokers' lungs

So make that an apple a day... and a whole lotta tomatoes.

So make that an apple a day... and a whole lotta tomatoes.

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

If you're still sheepishly sneaking out for ciggy breaks but have resigned yourself to the idea that the damage is done, so why quit, some new hope from science may bolster your resolve to smoke your last coffin nail, as my grandad was fond of calling them (...sadly all too prophetically). Should new year, new you be calling out from the depths of your psyche, however faintly, 2018 could be a truly healing one. Especially so if you're a fan of fresh produce.

A recent study out of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that ex-smokers who ate plenty of fruits and vegetables enjoyed a measurably slower decline in lung function compared to those who rarely reached for items found in the produce aisle. Those wishing to double down on the reported benefits would do well to grab a tomato first, apples were a close second.


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Data showed that adults who regularly consumed more than two fresh tomatoes or three portions of raw fruit daily saw a marked decrease in lung decline over a 10 year period. Assessing both the nutritional intake and lung health of over 650 adult subjects in Norway, the UK and Germany, then repeating lung tests that measured for both inhale and exhale capacity 10 years later, gave the research team their data. The findings showed that lung health was consistently better in those whose dietary habits included higher than average tomato and apple snacking.

More tomatoes translated to the healthiest lungs but all fruit helped. The handiest of the hand fruits, apples, were also a contender for favoured fruit. A daily diet of less than one tomato or fruit portion, by comparison, did not yield the same protection. For the full breathy benefit don't count on jars of apple or tomato sauce though. Processed and cooked foods were taken into consideration but didn't show any observable health boon. So, the fresher the better.

Consider that the findings are welcome for those who've never smoked too. Everyone eventually experiences a decline in lung health. Dr. Vanessa Garcia-Larsen who lead the study says, "lung function starts to decline at around age 30 at variable speed depending on the general and specific health of individuals." The damage done by smoking exacerbates that. But Garcia-Larsen thinks her data may point to dietary components in produce that could leverage that damage. Maybe even repair lung tissue that's suffered abuse. "This study shows that diet might help repair lung damage in people who have stopped smoking," she says. Garcia-Larsen maintains that "a diet rich in fruits can slow down the lung's natural aging process even if you have never smoked." Ya. So, here's a recipe for a for a fresh tomato and cucumber salad to weave into your weekly meal plan.   

Garcia-Larsen believes the research will push dietary recommendations for those at risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (or COPD) in a positive direction. COPD, she says, is on the rise. "Diet", says Garcia-Larsen, "could become one way of combating rising diagnosis of COPD around the world."

Should you still be still struggling with tobacco addiction, or just have lungs, may this new data incite you to step outside for a breath of fresh tomato or apple instead.