A study, composed of over 100,000 participants, including 71,354 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health study and 40,215 men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study were evaluated to determine the number of cases of emphysema. 


Emphysema, also known as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make it increasingly difficult for you to breathe.


Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two main conditions that make up COPD, but COPD can also refer to damage caused by chronic asthmatic bronchitis. The damaged that occurs in the lung, prevents the normal exchange of gases, primarily oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs.


Globally, it is a leading cause of death. The vast majority of COPD is caused by smoking for many years and can be easily prevent by not smoking. Cigarette smoking induced lung damage is rarely reversed, so treatment focuses on controlling symptoms and minimizing further damage.


The study followed the participants for 16 years.  During that time, 832 cases of emphysema, also known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) developed.


The participants were evaluated and adjustments were made for significant factors including, age, smoking status, body mass index, and others.  The people with the highest fiber intake had a 33 percent lower risk of developing COPD compared to the lowest 20 percent.  Also, this protection was greater in women.  Fiber from cereal consumed appeared to be the only form that was associated with this significant risk reduction.


“The biologic explanation for a potential benefit of fiber intake is related to both its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” write authors Raphaelle Varraso  and Harvard researchers Walter C. Willett and Carlos A. Camargo, Jr. “Even if the exact mechanism between dietary fiber and inflammation is unclear, it has been reported in epidemiologic data that fiber intake is associated with both a lower level inflammation.


“For COPD prevention, the most important public health message remains smoking cessation, but our data suggest that diet, another modifiable risk factor, might also influence COPD risk,” they conclude.