COPD Patients Could Benefit From Better Diet


Most people could benefit from following a better diet, and patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are no exception. Specifically, a new study finds that low intake of certain antioxidants may increase the chance COPD patients, especially men, will experience decreased lung function.

A better diet could improve lung function in COPD patients

To arrive at their conclusion, M. Salman Khan, DO, Summa Akron City Hospital, and his colleagues, evaluated data from 13 women and 7 men who had COPD. The study participants completed a food frequency questionnaire that assessed their intake of vitamins A, C, D, and E, and the mineral selenium based on their food choices, portion size, and preparation methods.

The dietary information for each patient was analyzed and it was determined whether he or she was deficient in each nutrient. Each patient’s lung function (FVC, maximum volume of air exhaled with force) also was identified.

Analysis of the patients’ dietary habits showed that poor intake of antioxidants was common, with 25 percent being deficient in selenium, 45 percent in vitamin C, 90 percent in vitamin E, 55 percent in vitamin A, and 70 percent in vitamin D. Although a deficiency of selenium was associated with decreased lung function in all patients, of those deficient in vitamins A, C, and D lung function was only worse in men.


The investigators are uncertain about the role of antioxidants in lung function in this patient population, or why there is a difference between the sexes. In this specific study, “the older male population studied may have been exposed to more lifestyle risks than our female population, including, but not limited to, primary or secondhand smoke,” suggested Dr. Khan. Another possible reason for the difference between the sexes could be related to the hormones testosterone and estrogen.

Although not evaluated in this study, new research from Hunter Medical Research Institute notes that the antioxidant resveratrol, a polyphenol that also has anti-inflammatory properties, has potential as a therapeutic agent in COPD. The findings have been published in Antioxidants & Redox Signaling.

In another study published in May 2010, researchers with Cornell University and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that women 45 years and older who regularly took supplements of vitamin E could significantly reduce their risk of developing COPD.

The results of Dr. Khan’s study, which were presented at CHEST 2010, the 76th annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), “raise questions about the complex mix of genetic, environmental, and nutritional factors at play with the progression of COPD,” according to David Gutterman, MD, FCCP, and president of ACCP. They also suggest that a better diet could improve lung function in COPD patients.

CHEST 2010 76th annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians
Wood LG et al. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling 2010 Nov 15; 13(10): 1535-48