Study links eating deli meats to worsened asthma symptoms

If you suffer from asthma, you certainly have enough on your plate already.

From toting around your inhaler to avoiding known triggers, it probably seems like some days trying to avoid an attack is your main goal.

Well, according to a new study, there’s something else you should be avoiding: the deli counter.

Researchers have found that “cured” meats — foods such as ham, bacon and sausage — can make you asthma symptoms even worse.

And it most likely all has to do with an additive that even those who don’t have asthma would be best off limiting in their diet.

Pulling the asthma trigger

Since last fall, a good picnic or a hearty breakfast hasn’t been quite as much fun.

That’s when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer experts at the World Health Organization, identified processed meats as being carcinogenic.

IARC found that consuming under two ounces of processed meat on a daily basis — the equivalent of just two slices of bacon or a few slices of bologna – could up your risk of colon cancer by nearly 20 percent.

Now, a group of French researchers who looked at the habits of nearly 1,000 asthmatics for close to two decades have found another frightening reason to put down that ham sandwich.

It turns out that those who regularly consumed cured and processed meats were over 75 percent more likely to be plagued by a worsening of their asthma symptoms than those who didn’t. And that was especially true for the people who had a “high intake” of deli meats.

If you look at what the researchers considered high, however, it’s really surprisingly small. They defined those big meat eaters as having more than four servings a week, with a serving being the equivalent of just two slices of ham, or one breakfast sausage (or two slices of dried sausage).

But while the researchers wouldn’t go so far as to say what it is about those foods that can make asthma worse, there’s plenty of evidence pointing directly to what the likely culprit is.

Unlike red meat, these cured meats contain nitrites, an additive used to prevent them from going rancid, preserve their color and curb the growth of bacteria.

And that can lead to cell damage along with increased levels of something called “C-reactive protein.” CRP is released by the liver whenever there’s inflammation – something asthma sufferers need to avoid like the plague.

A big discovery several years ago found that people with asthma appear to always have some degree of inflammation in their bronchial tubes, even when their breathing seems fine. So obviously if there’s chronic inflammation going on, those nitrites might just be the tipping point to trigger the worsening of asthma symptoms, the French team discovered.

The head researcher of the study even admitted that cured meat is “known for its high-nitrite content” that can lead to airway inflammation.

So does this mean that if you have asthma your hoagie and BLT days are over?

Not necessarily. How carefully you want to follow this advice probably depends on how severe your asthma is.

But what it does show us is that the more moderation you use in eating foods that have been preserved with heavy-duty chemicals, the less likely you are to cause existing health problems to flare up – or a new one to develop.

“Cured meats can worsen asthma symptoms” Tim Newman, January 2, 2017, MNT,