A new study published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research has found that if you’re trying to quit smoking, eating more fruits and vegetables may help you quit and stay tobacco-free for longer.
The study, by researchers from the University of Buffalo (UB), State University of New York, School of Public Health, is “the first longitudinal study on the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and smoking cessation,” according to a news release issued by the University of Buffalo.
“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, as quoted in the UB release. “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.”
The Study; Methodology
The UB researchers, led by Jeffrey P. Haibach, MPH, who is a graduate research assistant in the UB Department of Community Health and Health Behavior and Gregory G. Homish, PhD, assistant professor in the UB Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, surveyed 1,000 smokers aged 25 and older from different areas of the United States.
The surveys, which were conducted by random-digit dialing telephone interviews, asked the smokers about the extent of their consumption of fruits and vegetables.
The researchers followed up with the respondents fourteen months later, asking them if they had abstained from tobacco use during the previous month.
The study found that “those smokers who consumed the most fruits 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,” the University of Buffalo (UB) said in its news release.
“These findings persisted even when adjustments were made to take into account age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, household income and health orientation,” UB reported.
The researchers 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,” according to the UB release.
“We may have identified a new tool that can help people quit smoking,” said Jeffrey P. Haibach, MPH, first author on the study report.
“Granted, this is just an observational study, but improving one’s diet may facilitate quitting,” Mr. Haibach concluded.
According to the authors, several explanations for their findings may be possible. It may be that people who consume a lot of fruits and vegetables have less nicotine dependence. Or, the higher fiber consumption that comes with eating more fruits and vegetables may make people feel fuller, the researchers hypothesized.
“It is .. 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,” lead author Haibach explained.
In addition, UB’s release reported, “unlike some foods which 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.”
“Foods like fruit and vegetables may actually worsen the taste of cigarettes,” Mr. Haibach said.
Haibach added: “It’s possible that an improved diet could be an important item to add to the list of measures to help smokers quit. We certainly need to continue efforts to encourage people to quit and help them succeed, including proven approaches like quitlines, policies such as tobacco tax increases and smoke-free laws, and effective media campaigns.”
“Nineteen percent of Americans still smoke cigarettes, but most of them want to quit,” said Gary A. Giovino, PhD, chair of the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior at UB. While smoking rates in the U.S. continue to decline, the rate of that decline has slowed during the past decade or so, Dr. Giovino noted.
The UB researchers caution that more research is needed to determine if their findings can be replicated, and if so, to identify the mechanisms that explain how fruit and vegetable consumption may help smokers quit.
Funding for the UB study was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and LegacyÂ®.
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