Healthy diet linked with better lung function in COPD patients

by Nathaniel Dunford, American Thoracic Society
May 28, 2014

Image with caption: Corrine Hanson, Ph.D.

Corrine Hanson, Ph.D.

A new study led by a University of Nebraska Medical Center researcher shows a direct link between eating fish, fruit and dairy products and improved lung function among patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Conducted by researchers in the U.S. and Europe, the ongoing study looked at COPD patients’ lung function within 24 hours of eating grapefruit, bananas, fish and cheese.

The study recently was presented at the American Thoracic Society’s 2014 International Conference in San Diego.

“Diet is a potentially modifiable risk factor in the development and progression of many diseases, and there is evidence that diet plays a role in both the development and clinical features of COPD,” said study lead author Corrine Hanson, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UNMC School of Allied Health Professions. “This study aimed to evaluate that association.”

Researchers used data from the Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints study (ECLIPSE). ECLIPSE was designed to help determine how COPD progresses and to identify biomarkers associated with the disease.

Limited diet records were available for 2,167 ECLIPSE participants who provided dietary intake information at eight time points over a three-year period. Each participant reported the amount of a specific food they had consumed during the previous 24 hours.

Researchers looked at specific standard lung function measurements for the same group of people, including a six-minute walk test and scores and inflammatory biomarkers from the St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ). Results were adjusted for age, sex, body mass index and smoking.

They found that people who reported recently consuming fish, grapefruit, bananas or cheese had showed improvement in lung function, less emphysema, improved six-minute walk scores, improved SGRQ scores, and a decrease in certain inflammatory markers associated with poor lung function including white blood cells and C-reactive protein.

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

Based on these results and the results of other studies indicating a link between COPD and diet, the role of diet as a possible modifiable risk factor in COPD warrants continued investigation, she added.

Stephen Rennard, M.D., Larson Professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at UNMC, was a contributing author of the study.

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