Scientists from Columbia University have found that people who eat lots of cured meats such bacon, ham and hot dogs, are more likely to suffer from the serious lung condition chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The researchers looked at 7,352 people and found that those who ate the most cured meats had the worse lung function. Cured meats contain high levels of compounds called nitrites, which act as preservatives and colour fixatives. Nitrites give rise to reactive nitrogen species; molecules that may cause damage to the lungs. COPD includes the inflammatory lung conditions chronic bronchitis and emphysema and is responsible for over 30,000 deaths in the UK every year. Although smoking remains the main cause of COPD this research shows that frequent cured meat consumption is associated with an increased risk for COPD.
Jiang, R., Paik, D.C., Hankinson, J.L. and Barr, R.G. 2007. Cured meat consumption, lung function, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among United States adults. American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine. 175 (8) 798-804.