New research shows that a high fiber intake can improve lung capacity and function in smokers and non-smokers.

In new research, led by Corrine Hanson, a team of specialists reviewed records of 1,921 adults, ages 40 to 79, who participated in a large national database compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is unique because it combines interviews with physical examinations.

They found that those people who ate the most fiber fared better in lung capacity tests. Specifically, 68.3 percent of the fiber eaters had normal lung function compared to 50.1 percent of those who did not eat a lot of fiber. In addition, just 14.8 percent of those with fiber-rich diets had airway restriction, compared to 29.8 percent of those who did not follow such diets.

Those with the highest fiber intake also had greater lung capacity and could exhale more air in one second, which are also important indicators of lung health.

Although, at its highest level, the effects of dietary fiber did not quite offset smoking, it still showed benefits equivalent to using an inhaler, Hanson says.

The study, which appears in the Annals of American Thoracic Society, showed the benefits of fiber, but did not delve into how it might work. But Hansen believes this may be due to its anti-inflammatory benefits, which may also explain why it helps to prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other ailments as well.

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