Trying to Quit Smoking? Try Eating More Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and VegetablesUB study finds that smokers who consume plenty of fruits and vegetables are three times more likely to quit

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 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 dialling telephone interviews. They followed up with the respondents fourteen months later, asking them if they had abstained from tobacco use during the previous month.

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 orientation.

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 Behaviour. "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 fibre consumption from fruits and vegetables make people feel fuller.

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.

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.

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