Diet Tied to Better Breathing in COPD Patients
Study suggests healthy eating might help improve lung function
"A trial like that is hard to do," Camargo noted. "But it can be done."
As an example, he cited the recent PREDIMED trial, which showed that the classic Mediterranean diet can cut the odds of heart attack and stroke in high-risk older adults.
"We should do something similar with COPD," Camargo said.
For the current study, Hanson's team used data from a larger project that followed COPD patients over three years. At eight different time points, the participants were asked whether they had eaten grapefruit, bananas, fish or cheese over the past 24 hours.
In general, people who had eaten any of those foods showed better lung function on standard tests, had a quicker walking pace, and tended to have lower levels of certain inflammatory indicators in the blood.
In some cases, the relationship was immediate, meaning people who ate a certain food did better on certain tests the next day. In other cases, the link was longer-term, meaning certain foods were tied to better lung function over time.
Hanson said it's possible that some foods, such as fruits and vegetables, have a short-term anti-inflammatory effect. But it's more likely that the individual foods in this study are signs of a higher-quality diet.
There's no good reason to suspect that eating a lot of cheese, for example, would boost lung function. But, Hanson said, cheese might be an indicator of people's intake of vitamin D, which, some evidence suggests, might help COPD patients breathe a bit easier.
"I think the take-away is that diet may be a modifiable factor for COPD patients," Hanson said. "When we think about diet and disease, we usually think about heart disease and diabetes. But people with lung disease should be thinking about diet, too."
Camargo agreed. "The lesson that's emerging is that foods like fruits, vegetables and fish may be beneficial for lung health," he said.
And if you're looking for a generally healthful way of eating, Camargo and Hanson pointed to the Mediterranean diet. It's rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, beans and unsaturated "good" fats from sources such as olive oil and nuts. It's also low in processed foods, high-fat dairy and red meat.
Data and conclusions presented at meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.