People with a lot of fiber in their diet are less likely to get COPD. The connection is also seen in smokers and ex-smokers, a recent Swedish study shows.

The study was published in the European Journal of Nutrition and involved 35,000 Swedish women. During the twelve-year follow-up, 1,600 of them developed COPD.

The risk of COPD was about a third lower in women who received at least 26 grams of fiber from their diet daily. The reference points were those receiving less than 17 grams of fiber. According to Finnish recommendations, the amount of fiber in food should be at least 25 grams per day.

Cereal and fruit fibers in particular were associated with a lower risk of disease, but plant fibers did not affect disease in this study.

High fiber intake reduced the risk of illness in smokers as well as those who quit smoking, but non-smokers, who received a lot of fiber, were at the lowest risk of developing illness. Compared to them, low-fiber smokers were as much as 33 times more likely to develop the disease, the results showed.

The benefits of the fibers may be explained by their anti-inflammatory properties. In previous studies, dietary fiber has been found to reduce levels of IL-6 and CRP inflammatory markers, among others. However, it is possible that those who eat a lot of fiber live healthier lives anyway, which may have affected the results.

The best way to get fiber is to eat grains and especially whole grains and legumes. One hundred grams of rye bread contains 10 to 12 grams of fiber, the corresponding amount of beans or nuts contains about 5 to 8 grams.

COPD refers to chronic and progressive airway obstruction, which may be associated with persistent bronchitis or emphysema. The disease cannot be cured, but medications control its symptoms. Quitting smoking and, in work-related cases, reducing exposure can stop the progression of COPD.

About 2–3 per cent of Finns suffer from COPD. 20-30% of smokers get it.