Cured Meat Increases COPD Dangers

Two strips of bacon in a skillet
People with the lung disease COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) who overdo it on bacon, salami, and other cured meats may be at greater risk for experiencing a flare-up that lands them back in the hospital.

COPD is the umbrella term for chronic lung diseases including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. People with COPD often experience a worsening of their breathlessness and other symptoms (exacerbations) throughout the course of their disease. These flare-ups can result in hospital stays.

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New research in the European Respiratory Journal suggests that people with COPD who ate more than one slice of ham or the equivalent of another type of cured meat each day were more likely to have a flare-up that sends them back to the hospital, when compared with their counterparts who did not eat as much cured meat.

Nitrates and nitrites are added to cured meats to enhance their flavor and color, and to extend their shelf life. Nitrates can be converted in the body to nitrites, which have been linked to increased cancer risk in animals. Some studies have also linked nitrites to an increased risk of stomach cancer in humans, but the evidence has not been conclusive.