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Smoking And Nutrition

Bet you've heard something about a "supposed" link between smoking and cancer, right? Did you know that smoking also interferes with your body's ability to use nutrients? A recent study conducted by professors at Berkeley shows that smoking influences nutrition in ways that cannot be accounted for in diet alone. Some of their findings are given below.

Vitamin D: Cigarette smoking has a significant effect on vitamin D metabolism. Smokers have a 50% greater incidence of poor vitamin D levels compared with non-smokers.

Osteoporosis: Cigarette smoking has a significant effect on calcium metabolism. Deficient calcium absorption, of course, can lead to osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones. You don't want that to happen.

Vitamin E and Hardening of the Arteries: Vitamin E is believed to inhibit fatty deposits on the inner walls of the arteries. Smoking causes hardening of the arteries. Therefore, smokers may reduce their risk of developing heart disease by taking Vitamin E supplements.

Antioxidants: Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids are thought to help the body fight off diseases ranging from cancer to heart disease, and help stave off the degenerative effects of aging. Smoking depletes the body of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that protects the body from disease. (Smokers have reduced levels of Vitamin C in their plasma and tissues, so smoking leads to decreased levels of antioxidants.) Vitamin C supplementation may prevent coronary heart disease in smokers.

Blood Circulation: Studies have shown that cigarette smoking impairs blood circulation and blood flow from the heart. (21% lower in smokers than in non-smokers.) Vitamin C normalized blood flow and blood reserves in the heart in smokers, but had no effect in non-smokers.

Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer: Studies suggest that foods rich in polyphenols (compounds found in fruits and vegetables) might reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. In one study green tea was found to be the one of the main dietary sources of polyphenols. Green tea may protect against heart disease due to its protective mechanism against free radical damage to cells and tissues (a.k.a.) "increased antioxidative defense").

Summary:

"The first piece of advice for smokers is, of course, stop smoking," said study leader Lynn Wallock, a Berkeley scientist. "Barring that, smokers can benefit by improving their diet to include more fruits and vegetables, which contain a balance of antioxidants and other nutritional benefits, like fiber and carotenoids." They can also take vitamin C supplements. However, no regimen of diet or supplementation can make up for the adverse consequences of smoking. Lycopene is the major carotenoid found in tomato products, while beta-carotene is found in carrots and other orange or red fruits and vegetables.

If you smoke, you need to eat even healthier than a non-smoker just to get the same nutrients. To help your body's use of nutrients, drink green tea, eat lots of fruit and vegetables, and take vitamin C and vitamin E supplements. ...And of course, look into quitting!