Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Associated with Reduced Risk of COPD

Fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with reduced risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in current and former smokers, but not in never-smokers, according to a new study.

Evidence has suggested that diet may influence the development of COPD, with a high consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, and fish associated with a lower risk of COPD and impaired lung function.
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Researchers sought to determine the association between fruit and vegetable consumption and COPD risk in 44,335 men between 45 and 79 years of age who had no history of COPD at the start of the study. The mean follow-up time was 13.2 years.

Participants completed a 96-item food frequency questionnaire and provided demographic information regarding education level, weight, height, smoking status, physical activity and alcohol consumption at baseline.

A total of 1918 incidences of COPD were identified using the Swedish Patient Register and Swedish Cause of Death Register.

Their findings showed a strong inverse association between the consumption of fruits and vegetables and COPD in smokers.

“The age-standardized incidence rate per 100,000 person-years in the lowest quintile (<2 servings/day) of total fruit and vegetable consumption was 1166 in current smokers and 506 in ex-smokers; among those in the highest quintile (≥5.3 servings/day), 546 and 255 per 100,000 person-years, respectively,” the researchers wrote.

The hazard ratio for current and former smokers who consumed the most fruits and vegetables was 0.6 and 0.66, respectively.

One serving of fruits and vegetables per day was found to decrease the risk of COPD by 8% in current smokers and by 4% in former smokers. In addition, researchers found that the consumption of apples, pears, leafy green vegetables, and peppers was inversely associated with COPD.  Apples or pears decreased the risk of COPD by 23%, leafy greens by 32%, and peppers by 39%.

In participants who never smoked, fruit and vegetable consumption was not associated with COPD risk. 

“The present findings confirm the strong impact of cigarette smoking on the development of COPD and also indicate that diet rich in fruit and vegetables may have an important role in prevention of COPD. Nevertheless, non-smoking and smoking cessation remain the main public health message to prevent development of COPD,” the researchers concluded.

—Melissa Weiss


Kaluza J, Larsson SC, Orsini N, Linden A, and Wolk A. Fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of COPD: a prospective cohort study of men [published online February 22, 2017]. Thorax. doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2015-207851.