Processed Meat Could Aggravate Asthma, French Study Finds

Salami and sausage displayed in New York, April 17, 2016. A French study has linked the high consumption of processed meat with a worsening in asthma. Neilson Barnard/Getty

A chemical found in processed meat could aggravate asthma symptoms, a French study has shown.

Nitrite, a preservative found in ham, sausages and salami, may trigger inflammation in the lung's airways, according to researchers from Paul Brousse Hospital in Paris.

A 10-year study involving 971 participants showed that asthma sufferers experienced more occasions of chest tightness and shortness of breath when they ate cured meats four or more times a week.

Taking into consideration other factors, such as smoking, physical activity and age, experts discovered people who said they consumed more than eight slices of ham or four sausages had the biggest deterioration in their asthma by the end of the study.

"Cured meats are rich in nitrite, which may lead to nitrosative stress and oxidative stress related lung damage and asthma," the study reads.

"Cured meat might increase the systemic inflammation, which may have an influence on asthma.

"In addition, the high content of salt and saturated fat in cured meat might also contribute in part to the association with asthma."

Experts' findings were published in the journal Thorax.