Auckland University researchers say new information backs up the idea that a diet high in fibre helps reduce the harmful effects of smoking.
Lung inflammation had been shown as critical in causing progressive lung damage, ultimately leading to diseases such as emphysema and lung cancer.
Robert Young and his group from Auckland University's School of Medicine had just published a research paper on the subject.
Dr Young said a new study backed earlier observations that a high-fibre diet could help cut down lung inflammation.
"By changing gut bacteria that produce anti-inflammatory chemicals you would then absorb into your bloodstream.
"So the diet affects the lungs through these chemicals produced by bowel bacteria."
He said screening for early lung damage and lifestyle changes, such as a better diet and quitting smoking, could reduce much of the burden from smoking on the healthcare system.