Eating large amounts of cured meats was linked to worse symptoms among asthma sufferers, a French study found.
Cured meat intake has been associated with colorectal polyps and many chronic diseases, including lung cancer and COPD, but its association with asthma remained unclear.
What are processed meats?
There isn’t a generally agreed upon definition because the term is used inconsistently in studies. However, the term “processed meats” commonly refers to meats (usually red meats) preserved by smoking, curing, salting, or the addition of preservatives.
Ham, bacon, pastrami, salami and bologna are processed meats. So are sausages, hot dogs, bratwursts and frankfurters. Burgers sometimes fall into the “processed meat” category if they are preserved with chemicals.
About the study
For the study, the research team had data on 971 adults from five French cities who answered questions about diet, weight and asthma symptoms between 2003 and 2007.
On average, participants ate 2.5 servings of cured/processed meats per week.
Just over 40 percent of the participants said they had had asthma at some point, and around half said they had never smoked. Each participant was assigned an asthma symptom score, ranging from zero to five, based on difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath during the previous year.
Follow-up surveys completed between 2011 and 2013 showed that about half of the participants had no changes in their asthma scores, over one-fourth said their symptoms had improved and about 20 percent felt their symptoms had gotten worse.
Four or more servings per week tied to worse symptoms
After accounting for other factors such as smoking, physical activity, age, other dietary habits, and education, researchers found that participants who ate the most cured meat (four or more servings per week) were 76 percent more likely to see a worsening of symptoms compared to those who ate the least (less than one full serving per week).
About 35 percent of the participants were overweight and about 10 percent were obese, based on their responses. Those conditions probably explained about 14 percent of the association, the authors estimated.
The observational design of this study means, however, it can’t prove cause-and-effect.
Processed meats are rich in nitrites which may lead to any kind of oxidative stress related lung damage and asthma.
People with asthma are advised to maintain a healthy weight and to follow a balanced diet that includes fresh, unprocessed foods and is low in salt, sugar and saturated fats.
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