Vitamin C improves lung function, prevents COPD

If you’re feeling under the weather, it’s common knowledge to add more vitamin C to boost your immunity. It turns out, it’s sage advice, based on a study published in Dove Press. In the study, researchers from South Korea found that antioxidants such as vitamin C improve lung function and even prevent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is an inflammatory lung disease marked by breathing difficulties, persistent coughing or wheezing, and increased production of mucus. The term also covers other progressive lung diseases which contribute to the condition, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and non-reversible asthma. In a report released by the World Health Organization, around three million people die from COPD — making it the third leading cause of death after heart disease and stroke. Around the world, over 65 million people suffer from COPD — with most cases stemming from exposure to tobacco smoke.

However, it’s not just smokers who are at risk of COPD. If a person lives in a house where someone smokes inside, he can still get COPD even if he has never smoked. In the U.S., cigarette smoking — including exposure to smoke — is the leading cause of COPD. In addition to smoking, chronic exposure to polluted air can also lead to COPD. For those with COPD, however, exposure to polluted air makes their symptoms worse, even fatal in some cases.

Beating COPD with vitamin C

The South Korean team found that taking dietary antioxidants, including vitamin C, has a positive effect on the lungs. In the study, they found that this protective effect is due to the antioxidants’ ability to prevent oxidative damage in the lungs — the primary damage brought about by smoking. The finding builds on evidence that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables are beneficial for the lungs, thanks to the high antioxidant content. This means that a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables could help counteract the effects of COPD in the lungs.

For the study, the team exacted data from a cohort study that spanned both rural and urban areas in South Korea. They found at least 6,700 people in the study with COPD, which they followed up and analyzed for two years. During this time, researchers measured the lung function of the participants, recorded their antioxidant intake, and looked for signs of oxidative damage. They found that while smoking and other socio-economic factors can indeed increase the risk of COPD, an increase in antioxidant intake can effectively improve these risk factors. Simply put, antioxidants can attenuate the risk of having COPD, regardless of lifestyle and other factors.

The team also found a positive link between antioxidant intake and overall lung health. This is good news for those at risk for COPD and other respiratory conditions, as eating more antioxidants — in particular, vitamins C and E — can boost lung health.

Dietary sources of vitamin C

People equate vitamin C to oranges and lemons, mainly because of James Lind and his clinical trial to cure scurvy. These days, people looking to up their vitamin C intake have more than the two citrus fruits to choose from — here are just some common food items that are rich in the vitamin. (Related: Butternut squash is a yummy way to boost your vitamin C levels.)

  • Rosehips — Just six pieces of this small fruit is enough to provide a person with the vitamin C that he needs for the day.
  • Chili peppers — This breaks the notion that only sour foods have vitamin C. One green chili pepper has 121 percent of the daily value for vitamin C. Red chilis aren’t far behind either; one red chili pepper has 72 percent.
  • Guavas — The fruit is native to Mexico and South America, and it contains over 140 percent of the daily value for the vitamin. Studies have also found that eating guavas can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Learn which foods are rich in vitamin C by following

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