Bad News for Cured Meat Lovers

07 Sep 2006

A new study by the Columbia University Medical Center in New York shows that the consumption of cured meats may reduce lung function by 3%. This noticeable difference could have a marked effect on a person with lung disease such as bronchitis, says Graham Barr of Columbia University.

Mr Barr and his team of researchers analyzed data collected from 7,500 participants. Among the persons surveyed, 20% never ate cured meats and 20% indicated they consumed these meats at least 14 times a month. In the study, subjects were asked to breathe into a machine that measured their lung function, including how rapidly they could expel air.

A healthy person can breathe out 2.5 to 3 litres in 1 second. Mr Barr found that persons who consumed large quantities of cured meats expelled 115 millilitres less than those who ate none. These results are statistically significant and may be noticeable, especially in a person with a lung disease.

A person with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may only breathe out 1.5 litres per second, and show a decline of about 60 millilitres every subsequent year. Faced with this situation, a further 115 millilitres may make a difference of 1 or 2 years, indicates Stephen Rennard at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, US.

While previous studies found a link between processed meats and cancer, this is the first study of its kind to demonstrate a possible effect on the lungs, says Mr Barr. It has been suggested that the nitrogen-containing compounds used in cured meats react in the body and attack the proteins that contribute to the elasticity of the lungs.

Mr Barr will present these preliminary results at the European Respiratory Society meeting in Munich next week.

Source: New Scientist

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