Heart-Healthy Diet May Reduce COPD Risk

February 6, 2015
Krystle Vermes

A healthy diet associated with reduced heart disease risk may also lower the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

A healthy diet associated with reduced heart disease risk may also lower the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal.

Although the most predominant COPD risk factor is cigarette smoking, up to one-third of patients with the chronic lung disease have never smoked. This suggests that other factors are involved, but until now, diet has not been explored as a culprit.

Relying on data from more than 120,000 US men and women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study from 1984 to 2000 and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study from 1986 to 1998, the researchers examined the association between the subjects’ COPD risk and Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010 (AHEI-2010) diet scores.

A higher AHEI-2010 diet score reflects high intake of vegetables, whole grains, polyunsaturated fats, nuts, and long chain omega-3 fats, as well as low intake of red and processed meats, refined grains, and sugar-sweetened drinks.

Even after taking smoking status, body mass index, and other patient factors into account, the researchers determined that the risk of newly diagnosed COPD was approximately 33% lower among those with the highest AHEI-2010 diet scores.

"This is a novel finding that supports the importance of diet in the pathogenesis of COPD," the authors wrote. "Although efforts to prevent COPD should continue to focus on smoking cessation, these prospective findings support the importance of a healthy diet in multi-interventional programs to prevent COPD. Our results encourage clinicians to consider the potential role of the combined effect of foods in a healthy diet in promoting lung health.”