Scientists at the University of Buffalo carried out a survey of 1,000 smokers, aged 25 and older, with follow-up interviews conducted 14 months later. Participants were asked about the amount of fruit and vegetables in their diet, as well as whether they had managed to avoid cigarettes during the previous month.
The researchers discovered that smokers with the highest intake of fruit and vegetables were much more likely to have successfully avoided smoking in the 30 days prior to their follow-up interview. In fact, those who had eaten the most fruit and veg were three times more likely to have stayed away from cigarettes than those who ate the least. In addition, people who continued to smoke tended to have fewer cigarettes each day if they had a high intake of these foods.
Dr Gary Giovino, from the University of Buffalo's School of Public Health and Health Professions, said: "We knew from our previous work that people who were abstinent from cigarettes for less than six months consumed more fruits and vegetables than those who still smoked. What we didn't know was whether recent quitters increased their fruit and vegetable consumption or if smokers who ate more fruits and vegetables were more likely to quit."
Fellow researcher Jeffrey Haibach, who co-authored a write-up of the study in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, said that improving a person's diet plans could act as "a new tool that can help people quit smoking". While the reasons are not yet understood, Mr Haibach suggested that fruit and vegetables may provide "a feeling of satiety or fullness" so that people are less inclined to smoke". Alternatively, these foods may make cigarettes taste less appealing.
Either way, the researchers believe that an improved diet "could be an important item to add to the list of measures to help smokers quit".