Asthma patients may want to consider cutting back on their consumption of cured meats. Findings of a new study have revealed that regularly eating cured meats such as ham, dried sausage, and salami is associated with aggravated symptoms of their respiratory condition.

For the research published in the journal Thorax on Tuesday, Zhen Li, from the Inserm Paul Brousse Hospital in Villejuif, France, and colleagues looked at the heath, diet, and fitness data of 971 adults, 42 percent of whom have experienced some degree of asthma at some point.

By comparing the participants' data in two time points between 2003 and 2007 as well as between 2011 and 2013, the researchers found that those who ate the most cured meat or more than four servings per week had 76 percent higher odds of experiencing worsening asthma symptoms compared with those who only ate less than one serving per week.

Possibly Caused By Nitrites In Preserved Meats

Li and colleagues were not sure what particularly caused the worsening respiratory conditions, but they suspected that the culprit are the nitrite preservatives found in processed meats. Cured meats have high amounts of these chemicals to prevent them from spoiling easily.

Nitrites have been linked to serious health conditions such as cancer. They may also likely play a role in airway inflammation, which could be attributed to the worsening asthma symptoms.

The researchers, however, said that their study has only found an association between consumption of cured and processed meat and aggravated asthma symptoms. The findings, they said, do not necessarily mean that cured meats worsened asthma symptoms.

Eating Cured Meats As Dangerous As Smoking

Still, cured meats have long been linked with unwanted health conditions, which means it is prudent to limit intake of this processed food. Cured meats have been associated with increased risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The American Cancer Society recommends diet that limit amounts of processed meat products. The World Health Organization has also issued a warning about eating processed meats, classifying them as carcinogenic. Last year, WHO said that cured meats pose the same cancer risk as smoking, causing sales of sausages and bacons to plummet.

"Higher cured meat intake was associated with worsening asthma symptoms over time, through a direct effect and to a lesser extent an effect mediated by BMI. This research extends the effect of diet on asthma in adults," Li and colleagues wrote in their study.

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