Study links processed meats to asthma symptoms in adults

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Villejuif, France – Do you have asthma? If so, it may be time to take a closer look at your eating habits. New research has found that a diet high in processed meats such as ham, sausage and salami may be aggravating your asthma symptoms.

Cured and processed meat is rich in nitrites, which may play a role in airway inflammation. Using data from the French Epidemiological study on the Genetics and Environment of Asthma, researchers examined the health, fitness and diet of 971 adults. Between 2003 and 2007, 42 percent of participants reported having asthma at some point. Subjects said they consumed an average of 2.5 servings of processed meats per week. When the figures were compared to check-ups from 2011 to 2013, 20 percent of participants were found to exhibit worsened asthma symptoms.

People who ate four or more servings of processed meat per week were 76 percent more likely to experience aggravated asthma symptoms than those who ate one or fewer weekly servings. Overweight participants were 14 percent more likely to experience worsening asthma symptoms. Obesity previously had been linked to the condition.

Researchers also accounted for additional factors such as smoking, regular physical activity, age, sex and education, and concluded that eating processed meats seemed to play an independent role.

Although researchers acknowledged “no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect” given the observational nature of the study, they noted that the research "extends the deleterious effect of cured meat on health, and the effect of diet on asthma in adults,” according to a Dec. 21 press release.

The study was published online in the journal Thorax.

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