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Cured and Processed Meats May Worsen Asthma Symptoms

In October 2015, the World Health Organization added cured and processed meats to the list of cancer-causing agents. A recent study suggests that eating a large quantity of cured and processed meats may also make asthma symptoms worse over time.


Participants in the study included 971 people with a mean age of 43 who took part in France’s Epidemiological study on the Genetic and Environment of Asthma. The mean follow-up time was 7 years. Forty-two percent of the participants had asthma. In regards to cured and processed meat consumption, 19% ate one serving per week, 48% ate 1 to 3.9 servings per week, and 33% ate more than four servings per week.


The researchers defined “high intake” of cured or processed meat as more than four servings per week. One serving was defined as two slices of ham, one sausage, or two slices of dried, cured sausage. The researchers designated the people who ate one serving per week as “non-exposed” and used them as the reference group.


After examining the data, the researchers found that 22% of the people who had the highest consumption of cured meat had worsening asthma symptoms, compared with 20% for medium intake and 14% for the lowest.


Researchers from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research led the study. It was published online ahead of print on December 20, 2016, in Thorax.


While processed and cured meats have similar levels of cholesterol and saturated fats as unprocessed meats, they have considerably higher levels of nitrites and sodium. Processed meats contain, on average, four times more sodium and 50% more nitrate preservatives than unprocessed meat. Research suggests that too much unprocessed meat can increase the risk of developing bowel cancer.

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