Researchers in Spain have found that preservatives in foods such as bacon, sausages and burgers produce “reactive nitrates” that can damage lung tissue. Overconsumption could lead to dangerously high levels of the nitrates, triggering COPD.
The study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, followed 274 patients with COPD for two years and asked them to report on their consumption of nitrate-laden cured meats, among other things.
The findings are the first evidence that an excessive intake of cured meat – more than one slice of ham per day – can worsen the progression of COPD, said study lead Dr Judith Garcia-Aymerich of the Centre for Research Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona.
She added: “We believe that adherence to current dietary guidelines, which recommend a moderate or occasional intake of cured meats, will be sufficient in order to avoid this excess of risk.”
While the research suggest an association between a diet high in cured and processed meats and worsening symptoms in COPD patients, it does not establish a causal link.