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Fruit and veggies linked to quitting smoking: study

Carolyn Morris
Shine On
June 11, 2012

You've tried the patch, nicotine gum and even electronic cigarettes. Maybe you need to chow down on apples and carrots instead. Public health researchers at the University at Buffalo think fruits and veggies could be key ingredients in the struggle to quit smoking.

For the six-million-or-so Canadians who smoke, many of them hoping to quit, it couldn't hurt to try.

In an observational study of 1,000 American adult smokers, published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, those who ate more fruits and vegetables smoked less and were more likely to knock the habit during the research period.

"We may have identified a new tool that can help people quit smoking," study co-author and graduate research assistant in the University at Buffalo's Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, Jeffrey Haibach, says in a press release.

Also see: Sleep-deprived brains crave junk food the most: study

"It's possible that an improved diet could be an important item to add to the list of measures to help smokers quit."

The researchers conducted phone interviews with the smoker participants, using random-digit dialing, then followed up 14 months later.

The smokers who reported eating more fruits and vegetables were three times more likely than the rest to have abstained from smoking for at least a month prior to the follow-up call. They also held off longer before smoking the first cigarette of the day, and got lower scores on a test for nicotine dependence.

This held true even when the results were adjusted to account for age, gender, ethnicity, level of education, income and attitudes around health.

Also see: Inactivity costs 6.8-billion health care dollars a year in Canada

But as observational research, the study's conclusions can only go so far. The results don't prove that any particular nutrient in fruits and veggies will help you quit smoking, as a multitude of other factors could be contributing to the results.

And with self-reporting, participants might be over-estimating their healthy eating habits, and underestimating their tobacco consumption, or vice versa.

Researchers have some theories as to why fruits and veggies might ward off cigarettes. The high-fiber content might make people feel more full. And unlike coffee and alcohol, these foods might not pair well with smoking.

"Foods like fruit and vegetables may actually worsen the taste of cigarettes," says Haibach.

Even if the results aren't conclusive, if you're a smoker trying to quit, adding a few more veggies and fruits to your diet couldn't be a bad thing.

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