An Apple A Day

Warning message

This news item is more than a year old. Links, graphics, content, medical information, and statistics may be out of date. We invite you to search, visit our homepage, or contact us to find more current information on the topic you're looking for.



The Lung Association
August 13, 2004


Can an apple a day improve lung health? According to a study published this month, it may help.


Although smoking is the major risk factor for chronic respiratory symptoms and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), dietary factors may also play a role.


A research team from the U.S.A. and Singapore studied the eating habits of 63,257 middle-aged Chinese men and women over several years. They related this data to the respiratory symptoms reported by the participants.


Air contaminated with oxidants can damage lung tissue causing inflammation and excess mucus production. The first symptom of this damage is a cough with phlegm. Continued exposure leads to chronic bronchitis which is defined as having a cough with phlegm for three or more months per year. The most common source of inhaled oxidants is tobacco smoke.


Dr. Lesley Butler and coworkers state that, “Fruits and vegetables are the major food sources of antioxidants that may protect the lung from oxidative stress”.


The study found that those people who consumed an average of 377 grams per day of fruit were 33% less likely to have cough and phlegm compared to people who consumed only 44 grams of fruit per day. The strongest effect was seen for apples, pears and grapes.


The analysis was adjusted for the effects of smoking in case eating more fruit may be an indicator of a healthier lifestyle including less smoking. Additionally, the effect of reduced lung symptoms was also seen when comparing non-smokers who ate more fruit to non-smokers who ate less fruit.


Dr. Darcy Marciniuk, holder of The Lung Association COPD Professorship at the University of Saskatchewan, says that an apple a day will not keep COPD away. “Because there is no cure for COPD, the most important factor in preventing COPD is avoiding tobacco smoke”, says Dr. Marciniuk. “However, studies such as this one remind us that there are many aspects that must be considered when we look for ways to protect and improve lung health,” adds Dr. Marciniuk.


Karen Davis, a Saskatoon Dietitian and volunteer for The Lung Association, agrees that proper nutrition is an important aspect in the management of COPD. “Good nutrition can improve energy level, lung function and exercise tolerance”, says Ms Davis. “Eating fruits and vegetables is important for these reasons, but if the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables also help protect the lungs from injury, then so much the better.”


Ms Davis also cautions that, “It is important for people to remember not to single out one particular food for its magical nutrient; eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables daily will provide the benefits these foods have to offer.”


COPD is the fastest growing chronic disease in Canada and stands to be the third leading cause of death of Canadians within the next 15 years. For information and help in coping with COPD, call The Lung Association BreathWorks Helpline at 1-866-717 COPD (2753) or visit The Lung Association website at


The Lung Association of Saskatchewan  is a member of the Canadian Lung Association, which has been working for lung health for 104 years.   It is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that relies on donations from the public to fund its activities.  You will find The Lung Association, the premier source for respiratory health initiatives in the province, active in your community conducting programs on asthma, COPD, sleep apnea and reduction of tobacco use, providing training for health professionals, delivering health education in schools, facilitating patient support groups and lobbying for clean air. 


Reference article:
Dietary Fiber and Reduced Cough with Phlegm: A Cohort Study in Singapore.
Authors:Lesley M. Butler, Woon-Puay Koh, Hin-Peng Lee, Mimi C. Yu and Stephanie J. London
American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Vol 170, pp. 279-287, (August 2004).

AddThis Social Sharing Icon

Page Last Updated: 21/02/2017