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Updated 19 March 2018

Bacon bad for the lungs

Men who smoke may be increasing their risk of developing emphysema and chronic bronchitis if they eat lots of cured meat, new research shows.

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Men who smoke may be increasing their risk of developing emphysema and chronic bronchitis if they eat lots of cured meat, new research shows.

Cured meats such as sausage, ham, bologna, bacon and hot dogs contain high levels of nitrites, which are added to prevent rancidity and bacterial growth and enhance a meat's pink colour.

And just like cigarette smoking and air pollution, nitrites generate molecules known as reactive oxygen and nitrogen species that have been linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Dr. Raphaelle Varraso of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and colleagues note.

The chief risk factor for COPD, which encompasses chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is cigarette smoking. Research by Varraso and colleagues suggests that eating cured meats may worsen the harmful effects of smoking on risk of COPD.

They looked at data on 42 915 men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, 111 of whom were diagnosed with COPD within 12 years of enrolling in the study.

More than double the risk
Men who ate cured meats at least once a day were 2.64 times more likely than those who almost never ate cured meats to develop COPD, the researchers found.

Cured meat consumption has also been linked to diabetes and certain types of cancer, Varraso noted in comments to Reuters Health.

"Uncured" versions of processed meats are likely no better for health, according to the researcher.

But regardless of the current findings, Varraso added, the most important way to protect oneself from COPD is to quit smoking.

SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology, December 15, 2007. – (Reuters Health)

December 2007

 
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