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Diet Changes can Improve Breathing for COPD Patients

Update Date: May 22, 2014 01:57 PM EDT

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. COPD, which is one of the most common types of lung disease, causes the patients to have difficulty breathing. In a new study, researchers examined a potential new form of treatment. They found that certain changes in one's diet can improve breathing significantly.

For this study, the researchers recruited nearly 2,200 adults with COPD and examined the effects of eating certain healthy foods. The participants were enrolled in a larger project that had followed them for three years. In that study, the researchers had asked the participants at eight different points in time whether or not they had eaten fish, grapefruit, bananas and cheese within the past 24 hours.

The team found that COPD patients who ate these four food items had fewer symptoms and better lung function performance on standard tests in comparison to COPD patients that did not make these diet changes. The people that ate this kind of diet had a faster walking pace and had lower levels of some markers of inflammation measured via blood samples.

"We think that diet as a whole is important," Dr. Carlos Camargo, a professor at Harvard Medical School who was not involved in the new study, said according to WebMD. "A trial like that is hard to do. But it can be done."

Lead researcher Corrine Hanson, added, "Its probably the overall dietary pattern that matters. I think the take-away is that diet may be a modifiable factor for COPD patients. When we think about diet and disease, we usually think about heart disease and diabetes. But people with lung disease should be thinking about diet, too."

Hanson acknowledged the fact that they found a correlation and not a cause-and-effect relationship between these diet changes and COPD. Within the United States, COPD affects around 15 million people. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that COPD is the nation's third leading cause of death. The study's findings were presented at the American Thoracic Society's annual meeting located in San Diego, CA.

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