Bacon and eggs may soon have to be just eggs. A study by researchers at Columbia University in New York has found that people who frequently eat cured meats such as bacon, sausage and luncheon meats have a significantly greater risk of developing lung disease.
The study of more than 7,000 people found that those who ate cured meat more than 14 times per month had a 78 per cent greater chance of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than those who did not eat cured meat. They also had poorer results on tests of lung function.
COPD is a group of lung diseases, particularly emphysema and chronic bronchitis, that cause blocked airflow in the lungs. The most common cause is smoking, but the researchers accounted for smoking and other risk factors in their analysis of the data.
The study involved people age 45 years or older who were included in a U.S. national health and nutrition survey conducted from 1988 to 1994. Participants’ average age was 64 years, and 48 per cent were men. Those who frequently ate cured meat were more likely to be men, to smoke, and to have a lower socioeconomic status than study participants who never ate cured meat.
Study author Dr. Rui Jiang, an associate research scientist at Columbia University, says it is too early to draw conclusions from the findings, and further research will be needed. Cured meats are high in nitrites, and laboratory and animal studies suggest these chemicals may damage the lungs.