âCuredâ meats are processed varieties such as bologna, salami, ham, hot dogs, smoked sausage, and bacon. They tend to have a distinct texture and a smoky flavor. Ready to eat right out of the package, they owe their long shelf life to a preservative called sodium nitrite.
A favorite addition to sandwiches and breakfasts all over the world, cured meats are not particularly healthy. Time and time again, they have been linked with serious diseases not the least of which is cancer. (By the way, all deli meats are generally cured.) This time, the link is even more amazing. Incredibly, researchers have found that a diet high in cured meats puts your lungs at risk!
At Columbia University, scientists looked at nearly 7,400 people. They studied their diets and lung strength. Patients were about 65 years old. In this group, they found a surprising connection between eating cured meats and getting âchronic obstructive pulmonary diseaseâ (COPD).
Other than lung cancer, COPD is the worst thing that can happen to your lungs. It is like a blend of bronchitis and emphysema, and the number one risk factor is smoking. Now we know another risk factor: processed meat. And it wasnât just a mild connection. Those who ate 14 servings a month had an 80% higher risk of COPD than those who ate no processed meat.
And when you think about it, 14 servings a month is not difficult to manage. Considering only lunch, if you make a sandwich with cured meats every workday, that is at least 20 servings right there. And that doesnât even account for breakfast or dinner possibilities. This link was still strong after age, smoking, diet, and other risk factors were considered. The more cured meat they ate, the higher the risk.
Though it is surprising to connect your stomach to your lungs, this link isnât totally unexpected. Those nitrites that cured meat contains have caused lung damage in animal studies. But scientists havenât looked at their effect on human lungs yet.
On that note, this study goes a long way to proving that something is up. While you canât say cured meat causes COPD, the study suggests fresh food is the far better choice.
The findings were published in the April issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.