A Plant-Centered Diet is Inversely Associated With Radiographic Emphysema: Findings from the CARDIA Lung Study

Mariah K. Jackson, Yuni Choi, Elliot Eisenberg, Corrine Hanson, Ann Wang, Jing Gennie Wang, George R. Washko, Samuel Ash, Raul San Jose Estepar, Gabrielle Liu, James M. Shikany, Lyn M. Steffen, Robert Wharton, Ravi Kalhan, David R. Jacobs, Sonali Bose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a significant public health concern and intercepting the development of emphysema is vital for COPD prevention. Smokers are a high-risk population for emphysema with limited prevention strategies. We aimed to determine if adherence to a nutritionally rich, plant-centered diet among young ever-smokers is associated with reduced risk of future radiographic emphysema. Methods: We studied participants from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Lung Prospective Cohort Study who were 18-30 years old at enrollment and followed for 30 years. We analyzed 1706 adults who reported current or former smoking by year 20. Repeated measures of diet history were used to calculate A Priori Diet Quality Scores (APDQSs), and categorized into quintiles, with higher quintiles representing higher nutritionally rich plant-centered food intake. Emphysema was assessed at year 25 (n=1351) by computed tomography (CT). Critical covariates were selected, acknowledging potential residual confounding. Results: Emphysema was observed in 13.0% of the cohort, with a mean age of 50.4±3.5 years. The prevalence of emphysema was 4.5% in the highest APDQS quintile (nutritionally rich), compared with 25.4% in the lowest quintile. After adjustment for multiple covariates, including smoking, greater adherence to a plant-centered diet was inversely associated with emphysema (highest versus lowest quintile odds ratio: 0.44, 95% CI 0.19-0.99, ptrend=0.008). Conclusion: Longitudinal adherence to a nutritionally rich, plant-centered diet was associated with a decreased risk of emphysema development in middle adulthood, warranting further examination of diet as a strategy for emphysema prevention in a high-risk smoking population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-173
Number of pages10
JournalChronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • dietary intake
  • emphysema
  • life course
  • plant-centered diet
  • smoking


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