Four cured meat servings a week ‘worsen’ asthma symptoms, says report

Eating four servings of cured or processed meat a week might make asthma symptoms worse, according to a study in French journal Thorax.

The study of close to 1,000 people found a direct correlation between increased consumption of cured and processed meats – like bacon, ham and salami – and “worsening asthma symptoms”.

Researchers believe the chemical nitrite – used by processers to prolong product shelf-life and add colour to meat – could lead to nitrosative stress which can cause the airwaves to inflame. This in turn can spark asthma attacks, a potentially life-threatening condition.

The British Meat and Processors Association (BMPA) told Meat Trades Journal: “The report was not a clinical trial and has not confirmed a direct link between processed meat and asthma.  In the UK, the average daily consumption of processed meat is 15.9g, which is below the recommended WHO maximum levels and we continue to emphasise the importance of a balanced diet as red meat is rich in many nutrients.”

Dr Erika Kennington, head of research at Asthma UK said: “This is an interesting study suggesting a potential link between the consumption of cured meats and the aggravation of asthma symptoms in some people. However, it does not show a definite cause-and-effect from eating processed meats."

“Although certain foods can be triggers for allergies in some people, there is no specific dietary advice to manage asthma symptoms generally. For most people with asthma, healthy eating advice is exactly the same as it is for everyone else: follow a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh and unprocessed food and is low in sugar, salt and saturated fat.”

The French study of 971, middle-aged French research participants found that 20% of people reported worsening asthma conditions after a follow-up assessment, normally seven years after the study started.

Other factors such as smoking, exercise and age were also considered when researchers sought to determine a link between increased cured meat consumption and asthma deterioration.

The study is the first prospective research carried out on the association between processed meat consumption and asthma symptoms.

In 2015, the World Health Organization caused outrage in the meat industry when it classed processed meat in the same cancer risk category as cigarettes, alcohol and arsenic.

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