Eating lots of fruits and veggies may help smokers kick the butt
Washington: Smokers who consume plenty of fruits and vegetables are three times more likely to kick the habit and stay tobacco-free for longer, according to a new study.
Researchers from University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions surveyed 1,000 smokers aged 25 and older from around the country, using random-digit dialling telephone interviews.
They followed up with the respondents fourteen months later, asking them if they had abstained from tobacco use during the previous month.
“Other studies have taken a snapshot approach, asking smokers and nonsmokers about their diets,” said Gary A. Giovino, PhD, chair of the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior at UB.
“We knew from our previous work that people who were abstinent from cigarettes for less than six months consumed more fruits and vegetables than those who still smoked. What we didn’t know was whether recent quitters increased their fruit and vegetable consumption or if smokers who ate more fruits and vegetables were more likely to quit,” he explained.
The UB study found that smokers who consumed the most fruit and vegetables were three times more likely to be tobacco-free for at least 30 days at follow-up 14 months later than those consuming the lowest amount of fruits and vegetables. These findings persisted even when adjustments were made to take into account age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, household income and health orientation.
They also found that smokers with higher fruit and vegetable consumption smoked fewer cigarettes per day, waited longer to smoke their first cigarette of the day and scored lower on a common test of nicotine dependence.
“We may have identified a new tool that can help people quit smoking. Granted, this is just an observational study, but improving one’s diet may facilitate quitting,” said Jeffrey P. Haibach, MPH, first author on the paper and graduate research assistant in the UB Department of Community Health and Health Behavior.
Several explanations are possible, such as less nicotine dependence for people who consume a lot of fruits and vegetables or the fact that higher fiber consumption from fruits and vegetables make people feel fuller.
“It is also possible that fruits and vegetables give people more of a feeling of satiety or fullness so that they feel less of a need to smoke, since smokers sometimes confuse hunger with an urge to smoke,” explained Haibach.
And unlike some foods that are known to enhance the taste of tobacco, such as meats, caffeinated beverages and alcohol, fruits and vegetables do not enhance the taste of tobacco.
The UB researchers caution that more research is needed to determine if these findings replicate and if they do, to identify the mechanisms that explain how fruit and vegetable consumption may help smokers quit. They also see a need for research on other dietary components and smoking cessation.