COPD Sufferers Should Skip the Salami

Cured meats associated with increased risk of hospital admission for COPD patients

March 7, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Think twice about that side of bacon during breakfast if you have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Cured meats may be linked with increased hospital readmissions for COPD patients.

Excessive consumption of cured meats like ham, pepperoni, salami or bacon were associated with an increased risk of hospital readmission for COPD patients.

The authors offer a theory that the nitrates used to preserve and cure the meats may lead to increased lung damage causing a COPD sufferer to return to the hospital.

"Talk to your doctor about dietary restrictions for COPD."

The study was led by Dr. Judith Garcia-Aymerich from the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, Spain and involved 274 COPD patients. The 274 participants were monitored after their first hospital admission for two years. According to the results, eating more than the equivalent of one slice of ham a day was associated with an increased risk of readmission to the hospital.

Hospital admission due to COPD can be caused by an increase in symptom severity. Lung infection, respiratory disease, increased exposure to tobacco smoke or air pollution can all lead to exacerbating COPD symptoms.

Researchers collected data from the 274 participants about their eating habits, including how much cured meat they ate on a daily basis. COPD patients who ate more than one slice of ham a day were more likely to be readmitted to the hospital due to COPD symptom exacerbation. Researchers accounted and controlled for possible risk factors such as age, calorie intake and lung function.

Cured meats do not cause hospital readmission for COPD sufferers, rather there is an association between the amount eaten COPD sufferers going to the hospital for a second time. The reason why cured meats may be harmful to COPD patients is because of the nitric acid and anti-bacterial products used in the meat. The nitric acid could produce nitrogen in the lungs which can lead to more lung damage. This increased lung damage can be particularly harmful to COPD patients who have already been hospitalized.

Future studies could better identify the reason for this increased risk due to cured meats. Researchers could target nitric acid to see if it does in fact produce nitrogen in the lungs or if there is another cause for this increased COPD risk.

Dr. Garcia-Aymerich believes current dietary restrictions warning against too much cured meat is effective in reducing this increased risk as long as COPD patients follow the guidelines. More importantly improving lung function by increasing physical activity or quitting smoking will have more impact on improving COPD symptoms for patients according to Dr. Garcia-Aymerich. 

No funding information was provided. No author conflicts were reported.

This study was published in the March edition of European Respiratory Journal.