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Fiber May Cut Some Risks of Secondhand Smoke

Eating Fiber as Adult May Ease Some Risks of Kids' Exposure to Secondhand Smoke

WebMD Health News

Sept. 1, 2005 - Children who live with a smoker may face a lifetime of increased risk for a variety of respiratory problems, such as dry cough.

But eating a diet rich in fiber as adults may help reduce some of those risks, according to a large new study.

Researchers found children 18 and under who lived with one or more smokers were more than twice as likely to suffer from chronic dry cough as adults. However, those who ate more fiber-rich fruit and soy as adults appeared protected from some of those negative effects of secondhand smoke exposure.

"We actually found that people who ate even a small amount of fruit fiber had less chronic cough related to environmental tobacco smoke," says researcher Stephanie London, MD, of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, in a news release. "However, the possible benefits of fiber should not lessen the importance of reducing exposure to environmental tobacco smoke."

Fiber and Secondhand Smoke Effects

In the study, which appears in the Aug. 30 online edition of the journal Thorax, researchers looked at the relationship between childhood secondhand smoke exposure and respiratory problems such as chronic cough and phlegm later in life in a group of 35,000 nonsmokers in Singapore.

The results showed that children who lived with a smoker were more than twice as likely to have chronic dry cough as adults. In addition, secondhand smoke exposure during childhood was also linked to an increased risk of phlegm.

Researchers showed that adults who ate more than 7.5 grams of fiber a day -- the equivalent of about two apples a day -- were less likely to have health effects associated with childhood secondhand smoke exposure. Major sources of fiber among the study participants included fruits, vegetables, and soy.

"Fiber may have beneficial effects on the lung," according to London. "It seems to have the ability to reduce blood glucose concentrations, reduce inflammation, and enhance antioxidant processes." All of these may help to protect the lung against environmental insults, such as environmental tobacco smokes in childhood.

Researchers say it's the first study on the long-term effects of childhood secondhand smoke exposure to include information on dietary factors.

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