Healthy Diet for Healthier Lungs in COPD

COPD patients who ate healthy foods had better lung function

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) There are treatments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, there is no cure for the condition. But that doesn't mean that patients with COPD can't take personal steps to improve their disease-related health.

A recent study found that patients with COPD who recently ate a diet rich in healthy foods, such as grapefruit, fish, bananas and cheese, had improved lung function.

The researchers believe that diet may be a risk factor for COPD that patients can change.

"Discuss your dietary habits with a doctor."

The lead author of this study was Corinne Hanson, PhD, from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

The study included 2,167 COPD patients who participated in the Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints (ECLIPSE) study.

COPD is a condition in which it becomes progressively more difficult to breathe due to an inflamed and/or easily collapsible airway. The condition is typically caused by exposure to substances that irritate and damage the lungs, such as air pollution, dust, chemical fumes and cigarette smoke.

For this study, the participants reported whether or not they had eaten grapefruit, fish, bananas or cheese over the last 24 hours at eight different points over the course of three years.

The researchers then analyzed measurements of the participants’ lung function, determined by:

  • presence of emphysema, a condition that damages the inside of the lungs, making it difficult to take in the necessary amount of oxygen.
  • six-minute walk test, which measures how far a participant can walk in six minutes.
  • St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire, which measures impact of COPD on overall health, daily life and perceived well-being, with scores ranging from 0 to 100; higher scores indicating more limitations.
  • known inflammatory biomarkers, or proteins released from the inflamed area that can be detected in the bloodstream.

The findings showed that the participants who reported recently eating fish, grapefruit, bananas or cheese showed overall improvement in lung function.

These healthy dietary habits decreased the participants’ cases of emphysema, improved six-minute walk test scores, improved St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire scores, and decreased inflammatory markers associated with poor lung function, such as white blood cells and C-reactive protein.

"This study demonstrates the nearly immediate effects a healthy diet can have on lung function in in a large and well-characterized population of COPD patients," Dr. Hanson said in a press statement. "It also demonstrates the potential need for dietary and nutritional counseling in patients who have COPD."

According to Dr. Hanson, more research is needed on whether diet is a possible modifiable risk factor in COPD patients.

This study was presented on May 21 at the 2014 American Thoracic Society International Conference.

Review Date: 
May 21, 2014
Last Updated:
May 21, 2014