08 March 2012

Eating Cured Meat Increases Risk of Hospital Readmissions for COPD Patients

An excessive intake of cured meats, such as salami, chorizo and bacon, can increase readmission to hospital for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a study by Spanish researchers from the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) in Barcelona.

The research was published online in the European Respiratory Journal.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is one of the most common lung diseases. COPD inhibits the person from breathng normally. It refers to two specific diseases of the lung:
  • Chronic bronchitis: This involves a long-term cough with mucus
  • Emphysema: This involves the gradual destruction of the lungs over time
Since both Chronic bronchitis and Emphysema are caused by the same factors (cigarette smoking being a major risk factor), most often, the patient is diagnosed with both at once.

Other than cigarette smoking, other risk factors that can cause COPD are:
  • Exposure to certain gases or fumes in the workplace
  • Exposure to heavy amounts of secondhand smoke and pollution
  • Frequent use of cooking fire without proper ventilation

There is no cure for COPD.

Previous research has shown a link between the intake of cured meats and the risk of developing COPD; however, this study is the first to show the effects of cured meat consumption on the progression of the disease.

COPD is a term used for a number of conditions, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis that are caused by inflammation in the lungs. They make breathing more difficult and are a major cause of disability and death.

Video: Understanding Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

People with COPD are often hospitalised when they suffer an exacerbation of their symptoms. This can be triggered by a number of things, such as infections in the lungs, air pollution or tobacco smoke.

The researchers worked with 274 patients from their first admission to hospital due to their respiratory condition. Participants provided information on their usual cured meat consumption and were monitored for an average of 2 years for hospital admissions.

The results showed that people eating large quantities of cured meats (i.e. more than one slice of ham per day or equivalent) were more likely to suffer an exacerbation that caused them to have readmission to hospital. These findings were obtained after controlling for age, lung function and calorie intake.

The researchers believe the negative effects of cured meats are thought to be a result of the nitrites used as preservatives and anti-bacterial agents in the meat. The nitrites produce reactive nitrogen species that damage tissue in the lungs.

There were some limitations to the study, including a lack of information on dietary changes after the first measurements were taken; however, the authors state that it is unlikely that a COPD admission to hospital would promote a reduction in cured meat consumption.

Dr Judith Garcia-Aymerich, lead author from CREAL, in Spain, said: "Our findings provide the first evidence that an excessive intake of cured meat can worsen progression of COPD. 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. Above it, other individual actions such as quitting smoking or practising physical activity on a regular basis may be more relevant to reduce the risk of COPD exacerbations."


European Lung Foundation
Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL)
European Respiratory Journal
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Tracking Cigarette Smoke Towards Emphysema
Vaccine to Treat Lung Cancer Being Developed
Human Embryo Cloned for Stem Cell Production
Stem Cell Breakthrough for Parkinson's Disease Treatment
Photodynamic Therapy: Shining A Light To Fight Cancer
Searching for the Cause of Infant Leukemia
Alzheimer's Disease Risk Minimized by Eating Fish
Drug Makes Brain Tumors Glow Hot Pink
What is Ultrasound Surgery
Scientists Find Way To Block Cancer Cell Growth
Medical Treatments Through Photonics
What Is Metabolomics And Its Importance
Radiation Therapy for Lung Cancer May Not Be Helpful
Researchers Look into Lung Regeneration
New Cancer Therapy By Boosting Immune System's Natural Killer T Cells
Healthy Diet Leads to Better Mental Performance and Minimizes Brain Shrinkage