Healthy Diet Could Decrease COPD Risk

Men and women with healthy diets are at significantly less risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than those with high intakes of red and processed meats, refined grains, and sugar, according to a new study.

“The predominant risk factor for COPD in the developed world is cigarette smoking, but up to 1/3 of COPD patients have never smoked, suggesting that other factors are involved,” said the authors of the study.

“Apart from smoking, relatively little attention has been paid to other modifiable risk factors that might decrease the risk of developing COPD,” they said.

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For the study, 73,228 female nurses and 47,026 men completed biennial questionnaires. Researchers then ranked the diets of participants based on the Alternate Healthy Eating Index-2010.

According to researchers, the healthiest diets included a high intake of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

Investigators used Cox proportional hazard models to adjust for body mass index, total energy intake, physical activity, age, smoking, race and ethnicity, physician visits, and region in the US.

Further, in the Nurse’s Health Study, researchers also adjusted for menopausal status, second hand tobacco exposure, and the spouse’s education.

During the study period researchers recorded 723 cases (64 per 100,000 person-years) of recently diagnosed COPD in women and 167 new cases  (32 per 100,000 person-years) in men.

Women with healthy diets had a 31% decreased risk for COPD compared to those with less-healthy diets. Further, men with healthy diets decreased their risk of COPD by 40%, according to a recent study.

The investigators noted that they observed similar findings among ex-smokers and current smokers.

The complete study is published in the January issue of the British Medical Journal.

-Michelle Canales


Varraso R, Chiuve SE, Fung TT, et al. Alternate healthy eating index 2010 and risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among US women and men: prospective study. BMJ. 2015 February [epub ahead of print] doi: