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As we age our lung function declines. In this study, researchers at the University of Medicine Bichat,
in Paris, followed 535 individuals from 1992 in a European respiratory health study known as ECRHS.
The participants were approximately an equal number of men and women, 20% were moderate smokers and
10% were heavy smokers. Blood samples were used to determine antioxidant levels and lung function
was measured by using forced expiratory volume (the amount of air the lungs can forcibly push out
in one second). Individuals with the highest blood levels of beta-carotene reduced the yearly
decline in lung function significantly (8 ml. per year) compared to those with the lowest
beta-carotene blood levels. For heavy smokers defined as those who smoked more than 20 cigarettes per
day, low blood levels of both beta-carotene and also vitamin E had a decrease in lung function by a
whopping 50ml per year (almost 2 ounces of air volume). Previous studies have shown that beta-carotene
and vitamin E are found in relatively high concentrations in lung tissue and serve to protect it
from when there is contact with harmful oxidizing elements such as soot or ozone. The researchers
state that those who continue to smoke and have low levels of these antioxidants are going to have
a very high increased risk of developing emphysema and COPD. The study is published in the current
issue of the international respiratory journal Thorax.
Studies show it is not the caffeine which helps decrease
the risk of developing diabetes but probably the polyphenols.