According to the World Health Organization (WHO), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide and is on the rise due to genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.1 Nutritional support is an important consideration for COPD prevention and management.2 A recent study has found that eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day reduces the risk of developing COPD in smokers.3

Oxidative stress is a key feature in the pathogenesis of COPD and many studies have focused on a more prescribed approach to antioxidant interventions- such as use of antioxidant agents and dietary supplementation.2

The recently published study in Thorax however, evaluated smokers and their eating habits for over 13 years to determine if their risks for developing COPD had were related to fruit and vegetable consumption.3 This prospective cohort study enrolled over 44,000 men from a previously established database, age 45-79 who did not have COPD at baseline. Over the course of 13 years the prevalence of new COPD cases was tracked, resulting in a total of 1,918 new cases over this time period.

After analyzing self reported questionnaires, administered during the study, regarding lifestyle and eating habits, lead researcher Dr. Joanna Kaluza and her team, saw an inverse relationship between the development of COPD and higher consumption of fruits and vegetables for smokers, but not non-smokers. It was also calculated that for each additional serving of fruit and vegetable consumed per day, the risk of developing COPD decreased by about 8% in current smokers and 4% in ex-smokers. Fruit and vegetable eating habits did not show an increased risk for developing COPD risk in those who had never smoked. This study indicates that consuming at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day is beneficial to smokers and ex-smokers alike, in reducing their risk of developing COPD. 3

Why is this clinically important?

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide.1 Implementing preventative measures such as increasing daily fruit and vegetable consumption may reduce the risk of developing COPD. However, not all fruits and vegetables were shown to have an equal benefit rather, those higher in antioxidants such as blueberries, strawberries and green leafy vegetables, were likely to have a greater value correlating to previous research showing that diets high in antioxidants may help alleviate COPD symptoms. 2

Combating oxidative stress by recommending a diet that includes at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day for smokers and ex-smokers helps reduce the risk of COPD. 2 Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption even by one serving per day for smokers can reduce COPD risk by 8% and ex-smokers by 4%. 3


  1. Seo SH. Medical Nutrition Therapy based on Nutrition Intervention for a Patient with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Clinical Nutrition Research. 2014;3(2):150. doi:10.7762/cnr.2014.3.2.150.
  1. Rahman I. Antioxidant therapies in COPD. International Journal of COPD. 2006;1(1):15-29. doi:10.2147/copd.2006.1.1.15.
  1. Kaluza J, Larsson SC, Orsini N, Linden A, Wolk A. Fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of COPD: a prospective cohort study of men. Thorax. 2017. doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2015-207851.




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