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The Nutrient that May Help Reverse Emphysema and COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often refers to emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Patients living with the condition experience symptoms including “shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and excessive mucus production.”

Although the disease is progressive, recent studies have revealed a possible nutrient that could improve outcomes for patients living with critical lung diseases and conditions. Researchers have discovered that retinoic acid, which is a derivative of vitamin A, has been found to prevent the occurrence of and better treat these conditions. Retinoic acid is critical for “the healthy development and maintenance of the lungs.”

In another study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, researchers found that retinoic acid “prevented the reduction of alveoli in the lungs.” This is a significant finding as alveoli enable respiration and are necessary for the “exchange of carbon dioxide with oxygen.” In fact, human life is not possible without a sufficient number of alveoli. This relates to COPD as emphysema causes inflammation in the lungs, which in turn results in the destruction of alveoli and breathing difficulties. To stop these occurrences preventative methods must be taken to avoid the depletion of alveoli and effectively treat emphysema.

In the New England Journal of Medicine, a study documented increased lung function among children whose “mothers supplemented with vitamin A” compared to children whose mothers had not supplemented with the nutrient. Another study, published in The Clinical Respiratory Journal, revealed that nutrient deficiencies may cause lung damage and lead to the development of COPD. The study also found that when compared with healthy individuals, COPD patients “had significantly lower blood levels of carotenoids (vitamin A precursors).”

feb2018008Ultimately, data from these studies support a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, which proposed that emphysema was likely “the result of vitamin A depletion largely due to cigarette smoking.”

When foods that have high levels of beta carotene or other carotenoids are consumed the “body converts them into more active forms of vitamin A,” one of which is retinoic acid. Foods that are high in vitamin A include eggs, carrots, cantaloupe, peas and dark leafy vegetables.

Additional nutrients, other than vitamin A, are also important to help prevent or manage patients’ COPD. For example, a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, revealed that patients living with the disease have been documented to eat less fruits than individuals who do not have the condition. The study also revealed that patients with COPD often have low levels of antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E. These insights could link nutritional deficiencies “as causal factors for COPD.” Ultimately, increased consumption of foods that contain high amounts of vitamins A, C and E may help to treat COPD.

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