A diet high in fiber from foods such as fruits and vegetables may help to reduce the risk of developing lung disease according to new research.
The American Thoracic Society has released research which suggests that a high-fibre diet could help to reduce the risk of developing lung disease.
Using information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), a program of surveys that assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children across the United States, the team analysed data on both fibre consumption and lung performance from 1,921 adults aged between 40 and 79 from 2009-2010.
Data on fiber consumption was based on participants’ self-reports of how much fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains they had eaten every day. If participants ate more than 17.5 grams of fibre a day they were placed in the top quartile, while less than 10.75 grams of fibre a day put them in the bottom quartile. The top quartile represented the largest number of participants (571), while the bottom quartile represented the smallest number of participants (360). Data on lung performance was gathered from measurements taken from two breathing tests.
When looking at a possible association between the two sets of data, and after taking into account other factors such as smoking status, socioeconomic status, and weight, the team found an independent link between a high-fibre diet and improved lung function, with their analysis showing that of the adults who were in the top quartile of fibre intake, 68.3% had normal lung function, compared to 50.1% of those in the bottom quartile. In addition only 14.8% of those in the top quartile had airway restriction, compared to 29.8% in the bottom quartile.
Although the team acknowledged the study’s limitations such as not factoring in physical exercise or analysing fibre consumption and lung function over a longer period, they still concluded that there was a link between low consumption of fibre and a decrease in lung function.
The authors believe that benefits of fibre on lung function could be explained by results of previous studies which have demonstrated fibre’s ability to reduce inflammation in the body, a factor in many lung diseases, and have shown fibre also has the ability to change the balance of microbes in the gut, which could in turn help to release chemicals into the body which help to protect the lungs.
Commenting on the significance of the results lead author Corinne Hanson said, “Lung disease is an important public health problem, so it’s important to identify modifiable risk factors for prevention. However, beyond smoking very few preventative strategies have been identified. Increasing fibre intake may be a practical and effective way for people to have an impact on their risk of lung disease.”