An Apple a Day to Keep Smoking Away?

Quitting smoking more likely among eaters of fruits and vegetables

(RxWiki News) Trying to quit smoking? Here, have another serving of peas. And munch on some broccoli or fruit salad while you're at it.

According to a recent study, you'll have a better chance of quitting smoking - and staying tobacco-free - if you're eating lots of fruits and vegetables.

"Eat more fruits and veggies while trying to quit smoking."

Jeffrey Haibach, MPH, a graduate research assistant in the University of Buffalo in New York, led a study to find out the relationship between successfully giving up smoking and a person's fruit and vegetable consumption.

Haibach and colleagues interviewed 1,000 smokers, age 25 and older, by telephone using random-digit dialing. Then the researchers called participants back 14 months later to see if they had smoked or not the previous month.

They found that those who ate the most amount of fruits and vegetables were three times more likely to say they had abstained from tobacco for the past month than those who ate the least amount of fruits and vegetables.

The researchers controlled for age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, household income and a handful of health indicators, such as the person's amount of alcohol intake, exercise and use of illegal drugs.

Haibach's team also found other associations with fruit and vegetable consumption and smoking habits.

The high fruits and vegetables eaters smoked fewer cigarettes a day, waited longer before having their first cigarette of the day and had lower nicotine dependence based on a common assessment tool.

"We may have identified a new tool that can help people quit smoking," Haibach said. "Granted, this is just an observational study, but improving one's diet may facilitate quitting."

In other words, the study couldn't prove that the high intake of fruits and vegetables caused the smokers to quit more easily or smoke less, but then, there aren't many negative side effects to upping your daily fruits and vegetables either.

The study was not designed to find out the reason for the results, but the authors said some of the possibilities are that eating lots of fruits and vegetables is linked to a lower level of nicotine dependence or that the extra fiber makes people feel fuller and less likely to smoke.

Another option is that "Foods like fruit and vegetables may actually worsen the taste of cigarettes," said Haibach.

The study appeared online May 21 the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research. The research was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Innovators Combating Substance Abuse Program and the American Legacy Foundation. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
June 9, 2012