Areas of expertise / Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

What are we talking about?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic lung disease that causes air flow limitation (less air in and out of the airways) and breathing-related symptoms. There is no cure, but there are ways to manage and treat COPD. The most common types of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema (1,2).

Prevalence and consequences

COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide, with 3.23 million deaths recorded in 2019 alone. Nearly 90% of COPD-related deaths in people under 70 years of age occur in low- and middle-income countries (1).

COPD poses significant health risks and complications. Progressive airflow limitation and chronic airway inflammation cause symptoms such as dyspnea and coughing. Patients have an increased risk of respiratory infections and a poorer quality of life. COPD is associated with comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, which further complicates treatment and prognosis, significantly affecting respiratory function, quality of life and mortality rates (1,2,3).

The role of oral nutritional supplements

COPD patients require increased caloric intake to prevent weight and muscle mass loss and to strengthen the immune system. Insufficient caloric intake can increase the burden on respiratory muscles, worsening respiratory symptoms. In this context, oral nutrition supplements play a crucial role by providing essential nutrients and additional calories that are difficult to obtain through regular diet, thus contributing to a better quality of life in COPD patients (1).

Frequent questions

1. Is there a difference in the prevalence of COPD between genders?

COPD affects more women than men, with higher mortality rates among women. This discrepancy can be attributed to various factors. Historically, the tobacco industry targeted women in the late 1960s, leading to increased smoking rates among females and subsequent rises in smoking-related diseases such as COPD. Additionally, women’s smaller lung capacity and potential hormonal influences, such as estrogen, may render them more susceptible to lung damage from cigarette smoke and pollutants. Despite potentially lower exposure to smoking, women often develop severe COPD at younger ages compared to men (1,2).

2. How is nutrition linked to breathing?

COPD patients frequently experience heightened energy demands for respiration, necessitating substantially increased caloric intake compared to individuals without the condition. Some dietary modifications can significantly impact metabolic pathways, potentially ameliorating respiratory challenges in COPD patients (1).

3. What factors contribute to the development of COPD?

COPD is commonly associated with smoking. However, it is vital to recognize that COPD can develop in individuals who have never smoked. Other contributing factors include a background of childhood respiratory infections, exposure to smoke from coal or wood-burning stoves, and passive smoking. Age is another significant factor, as lung function naturally declines with advancing years, particularly in those aged 40 and older (1,2,3).


  1. American Lung Association. Nutrition and COPD. 2021.
  2. World Health Organization. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 2023.
  3. Forum of International Respiratory Societies, World Lung Day: respiratory groups unite to call for healthy lungs for all. 2019.

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