Buffalo, N.Y. -- If you're trying to quit smoking, eating more
fruits and vegetables may help you quit and stay tobacco-free for
longer, according to a new study published online by University at
Buffalo public health researchers.
The paper, in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, is the
first longitudinal study on the relationship between fruit and
vegetable consumption and smoking cessation.
The authors, from UB's School of Public Health and Health
Professions, surveyed 1,000 smokers aged 25 and older from around
the country, using random-digit dialing telephone interviews. They
followed up with the respondents fourteen months later, asking them
if they had abstained from tobacco use during the previous
"Other studies have taken a snapshot approach, asking smokers
and nonsmokers about their diets," says Gary A. Giovino, PhD, chair
of the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior at UB.
"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 UB study found that smokers who consumed the most fruit 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. These findings persisted
even when adjustments were made to take into account age, gender,
race/ethnicity, education, household income and health
They 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.
"We may have identified a new tool that can help people quit
smoking," says Jeffrey P. Haibach, MPH, first author on the paper
and graduate research assistant in the UB Department of Community
Health and Health Behavior. "Granted, this is just an observational
study, but improving one's diet may facilitate quitting."
Several explanations are possible, such as less nicotine
dependence for people who consume a lot of fruits and vegetables or
the fact that higher fiber consumption from fruits and vegetables
make people feel fuller.
"It is also 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," explains Haibach.
And 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," says Haibach.
While smoking rates in the U.S. continue to decline, Giovino
notes, the rate of that decline has slowed during the past decade
or so. "Nineteen percent of Americans still smoke cigarettes, but
most of them want to quit," he says.
Haibach adds: "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."
The UB researchers caution that more research is needed to
determine if these findings replicate and if they do, to identify
the mechanisms that explain how fruit and vegetable consumption may
help smokers quit. They also see a need for research on other
dietary components and smoking cessation.
Gregory G. Homish, PhD, assistant professor in the UB Department
of Community Health and Health Behavior, also is a co-author.
Funding was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and