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Healthy diet during teen years may prevent lung problems
Healthy diet during teen years may prevent lung problems

July 12, 2007 (Insidermedicine) A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish can protect teens from respiratory problems in adulthood, according to research published in the journal Chest.

Previous studies have suggested that the inclusion of large quantities of antioxidants and fatty acids in the diet may contribute to healthy lungs, but these studies focused on adults and children. It was unknown whether a diet with low nutrient content was associated with decreased lung function and a higher incidence of respiratory problems in teenagers.

To study the association, researchers enrolled more than 2,000 high school seniors in 13 communities across the US and Canada during a single school year. They questioned them about respiratory symptoms, how often they ate various types of food in the preceding year, whether they took vitamin supplements, and other factors. The researchers also tested each student’s lung function.

The majority of the students did not take multivitamins and did not consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, vitamins A, C and E, fatty acids, or beta-carotene.

They found that a low fruit or vitamin C intake, even at the lowest recommended amount, was associated with a lower lung capacity. As well, low intake of fruit, vitamin E, and fatty acids was associated with respiratory symptoms such as chronic bronchitis, wheezing, and asthma. Finally, teen smoking in combination with low intakes of vitamin C showed an even greater risk for respiratory symptoms.

Based on these findings, it makes sense to encourage teens to take vitamin supplements to make sure they get the nutrients they need. A lack of nutrients during this critical period of growth may have a significant impact on the respiratory system later in life.

Reporting for Insidermedicine, I’m Dr. Susan Sharma.