Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affects approximately 12.7 million adults in the US and was the third leading cause of death in 2010 with 134,676 deaths. It is defined as a condition that causes airway obstruction and breathing problems. The disease is characterized by shortness of breath during day-to-day activities, chronic cough, wheezing, frequent respiratory infections, excessive mucus production, fatigue and blueness in the lips or fingernails.
A new collaborative study involving France and the US has identified diet has a modifiable risk factor. Previously smoking was attributed to be the main cause of COPD.
The research participants consisted of 73,228 women who took part in the Nurses’ Health Study from 1984 to 2000, and 47,026 men who took part in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study from 1986 to 1998. All participants completed a food frequency questionnaire and health questionnaire before the study.
The researchers used the Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010 (AHEI-2010) to measure the participants’ diet quality. A higher AHEI-2010 score represents a healthy diet with a high intake of vegetables, whole grains, polyunsaturated fats, nuts and omega-3 fatty acids, a low intake of red and processed meats, refined grains and sugary drinks, and moderate alcohol consumption.
The research findings revealed that participants with the highest AHEI-2010 scores were a third less likely to develop COPD, compared with participants with the lowest scores, suggesting a healthy diet may reduce the risk of developing COPD.
The researchers recommend a health diet as a preventative measure to COPD as it is theorized that antioxidants in a healthy diet may be behind the protective effect against COPD.
Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010 and risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among US women and men: prospective study, Raphaëlle Varraso, et al., The BMJ, doi: 10.1136/bmj.h286, published online 3 February 2015.