A seven-year study conducted by French scientists on 971 participants, 42 percent of which had asthma, found that 20 percent of participants experienced worsened asthma conditions over time, which the researchers believe could be because of increased consumption of cured meat.
The study, published in Thorax, was specifically conducted to measure the effect of increased cured meat consumption on those who have asthma. Participants were asked to gradually increase their intake of cured meat products from less than one serving a week to over four servings a week. Researchers followed up with participants after seven years and collected the results while accounting for obesity, smoking, age, physical activity and other factors. The study results indicated that those participants who ate more than four servings of cured meat – bacon, pepperoni, ham, salami, corned beef, prosciutto and pastrami – had a 76 percent higher risk of worsening their asthma symptoms than those who consumed less than a full serving.
“This research extends the deleterious effect of cured meat in health, and the effect of diet on asthma in adults, and provides a novel analytic approach regarding the role of BMI in the diet-asthma association,” the study concluded.
However, this study has been receiving some criticism from representatives in the meat industry. The head of the UK’s Provision Trade Federation, an organization that represents the production of cured meats like bacon and ham, said that there needs to be more research on this issue.
“It seemed to me that it was not a definitive conclusion, and it’s one of a number of studies that are raising issues,” Andrew Kuyk, Director General of the Federation, told Food Manufacture.
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer recently classified processed meat as a carcinogen. What classifies under the term “processed” in this announcement is any meat that has undergone salting, curing, fermenting or smoking to flavor it. These processes involve using large amounts of sugar, salt, nitrates and nitrites. It has been confirmed that nitrites have a connection to lung problems, so it is recommended that people with lung conditions stay away from such foods.
With the demand for cured meats like bacon increasing in the US, it is likely that this news will not be in favor of consumers. However, with the market heading towards a future of healthy alternatives, it is likely that this news will deter some consumers, especially millennials, from purchasing cured meat.