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Cured meats linked to worse asthma

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A French study has found links between eating large amounts of cured meats and worse symptoms among people who suffer from asthma

A French study has found that consuming large amounts of cured meats was linked to worse symptoms among people who suffer from asthma. According to the researchers, the results were true even after obesity was taken into account.

Cured meats are meats that have been preserved and flavoured by adding various combinations of salt, nitrates, nitrites and sugar, with examples including bacon, pepperoni, prosciutto and corned beef.

The study appeared in the journal Thorax, and was based on data from 971 adults from five French cities, all of whom answered questions about diet, weight, and asthma symptoms between 2003 and 2007. According to a press release from the journal, cured and processed meat is rich in nitrites, which may have a role in airway inflammation, a typical feature of asthma.

Participants on average ate 2.5 servings of cured meats per week, and just over 40 per cent said they had suffered from asthma at some point.


Each participant was assigned an asthma symptom score that ranged from zero to five. This score was based on difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath during the previous year.

Then, follow-up surveys between 2011 and 2013 revealed that about half of the participants showed no change in their asthma scores, while more than a quarter said their symptoms had improved. Approximately 20 per cent, however, felt their symptoms had gotten worse.

Even after accounting for other factors including smoking, physical activity, education, age and other dietary habits, researchers found that participants who ate the most cured meat (four servings or more each week) were 76-per-cent more likely to see worsening symptoms compared to those who ate the least (less than a full serving each week).

Based on their responses, about 35 per cent of participants were overweight and approximately 10 percent were obese, and the researchers estimated that this probably explained only about 14 per cent of the association.

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