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Cured meats linked to respiratory illness

health-and-fitness Updated: Mar 13, 2012 19:55 IST

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Eating too much cured meats like salami, chorizo and bacon can worsen symptoms of respiratory diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis and lead to a trip to the hospital, says a new study.

Published in the European Respiratory Journal last week, a team of Spanish researchers say they've found a link between the consumption of cured meats and the increased number of hospital admissions among people suffering from chronic pulmonary disease (COPD).

The umbrella term is used for a number of respiratory illnesses caused by inflammation in the lungs. For their study, researchers worked with 274 COPD patients from their first hospital admission and monitored them for the next two years. Participants also provided information on their cured meat consumption.

Their conclusion? People who eat large quantities of cured meats -- identified as more than a slice of ham or equivalent a day -- were more likely to experience exacerbated symptoms and be admitted to hospital.

Researchers believe the problem lies in the nitrites which act as preservatives and anti-bacterial agents in the meats -- substances which have also been shown to cause a reaction and damage tissue in the lungs.

While previous research has shown that increased consumption of cured meats like hot dogs and salami can lead to an increased risk of developing COPD, the Spanish researchers say theirs is the first to show that eating processed meats can also inflame and worsen symptoms.

Processed and cured red meats, which are high in sodium and nitrites, have also been linked to the development of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer.