Research into lung capacity is a big blow for apples

An apple a day can help you breathe more easily - at least if you are a middle-aged man living in Wales.

An apple a day can help you breathe more easily - at least if you are a middle-aged man living in Wales.

Scientists who studied 2,500 Welshmen aged 45 to 59 found those who ate five or more apples a week had the most efficient lungs as measured by a test in which the men were asked to blow into a specially calibrated instrument to measure their lung capacity.

Diet has long been linked to lung function and some scientists have suggested that the rise in asthma in recent decades could be the result of changes in what we eat.

Attention has focused on anti-oxidants in food, such as vitamin C, which may protect the lungs against oxidant attack from irritants in the atmosphere such as ozone, nitrogen dioxide and cigarette smoke.

In the new study, published in the medical journal Thorax, researchers from St George's Hospital medical school in Tooting, south London, examined data from the Caerphilly heart study, run between 1979 and 1983. They found lung function in the men at the end of the five-year period was significantly better in those with high consumption of vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, citrus fruits, apples and fruit juices.

When differences between the men such as weight, smoking and exercise were taken into account, however, only apples still stood out as having a beneficial effect on breathing. In particular, there was no link with vitamin C.

Apples contain high levels of an anti-oxidant called quercetin, which is also found in onions, tea and red wine and may be important in protecting the lungs from atmospheric pollution and smoking, the authors say. However, eating apples may also simply reflect a healthy diet, they suggest.

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