Cured meat consumption may worsen asthma symptoms

December 13, 2017

Cured meat has been classified as carcinogenic by the World Health Organization. High cured meat consumption has been shown to increase the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A study published in BMJ suggests that higher cured meat consumption is also associated with worsening asthma symptoms over time.

The EGEA study (Epidemiological study on the Genetics and Environment of Asthma, bronchial hyperresponsiveness and atopy) is a longitudinal study with an initial group of asthma cases, their first-degree relatives, and a group of controls, followed up over 20 years with two subsequent surveys. Since diet was measured at EGEA2 only, the researchers used data collected at EGEA2 as baseline and EGEA3 as the follow-up. The researchers applied a mediation analysis in the counterfactual framework, a marginal structural model (MSM), to estimate the direct effect of baseline cured meat intake on change in asthma symptom score, and the indirect effect mediated by BMI.

Among the 971 participants, 20% reported worsening asthma symptoms during the mean follow-up time of seven years. Using the MSM, the researchers reported a positive direct effect of cured meat intake (≥4 servings/week) on worsening asthma symptoms. While the indirect effect mediated through BMI accounted for only 14% of this association, the direct effect explained a greater proportion, suggesting a deleterious role of cured meat independent of BMI.