Claim: Processed meats cause asthma

This study is a weiner — and not the good kind.

Past the weak statistical associations based on unreliable self-reported data used to explain a common yet complex health issue, where was all the asthma when nitrite levels in processed meat were much higher?

The media release is below. The study is here.


High dietary processed meat intake linked to worsening asthma symptoms
Four or more weekly servings seem to have greatest impact, findings suggest


A high dietary intake of cured and processed meats, such as ham and salami, is linked to worsening asthma symptoms, reveals research published online in the journal Thorax.

Four or more weekly servings seem to have the greatest impact on symptoms, the findings suggest.

Cured and processed meat is rich in nitrites, which may have a role in airway inflammation–a typical feature of asthma.

To find out if dietary processed meat intake was associated with the worsening of asthma symptoms over time, and what role, if any, obesity might have, the researchers drew on data from participants in the French Epidemiological study on the Genetics and Environment of Asthma (EGEA).

This has been tracking the health through surveys and medical examination of more than 2000 asthma patients, their close relatives, and a comparison group from five cities in France for more than 20 years.

The current study is based on 971 adults (49% men) for whom complete dietary, weight (BMI), asthma symptom score and demographic data were obtained up to 2011-13.

Dietary intake was measured using food frequency questionnaires encompassing 118 items in 46 food groups. Cured meat intake (ham, sausage, salami) was classified as low for 1 or fewer weekly servings; medium for 1-4 weekly servings; and high for 4 or more.

Asthma symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath in the preceding 12 months, were scored from 0 to 5 (asthma symptom score).

Information was also gathered on other potentially influential factors, such as smoking, regular physical activity, age, sex, and educational attainment.

Between 2003 and 2007, 42% of the participants said they had had asthma at some point, and around half (51%) had never smoked. Just over a third (35%) were overweight, while nearly one in 10 (9%) were obese.

Participants said they ate an average of 2.5 servings of cured/processed meat intake a week.

By 2011-13, when the next checks were made, there had been no change in asthma symptom score for just over half the participants (53%; 513). In one in five (20%) symptoms had worsened and in around one in four (27%) symptoms had improved.

Among those who ate one or fewer weekly servings, the proportion of those with worsening asthma symptoms was 14%; among those eating 1-4, the proportion was 20%; and among those eating 4 or more, the proportion was 22%.

After taking account of potentially influential factors, such as smoking, regular physical activity, age, sex, and educational attainment, those who ate the most cured meats were 76% more likely to experience worsening asthma symptoms than those who ate the least.

Overweight/obesity, which has previously been linked to worsening asthma, accounted for just 14% of this association, the calculations showed, suggesting that processed meat intake may have an independent role in asthma symptoms, say the researchers.

This is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. Furthermore, the survey responses relied on memory and the symptom score may have been affected by smoking or by COPD–chronic lung disease that shares many of its symptoms with asthma–say the researchers.

Nevertheless, research from other countries points to a potential role for cured/processed meats in lung function and health, say the researchers.

“This research extends the deleterious effect of cured meat on health, and the effect of diet on asthma in adults, and provides a novel analytic approach regarding the role of BMI in the diet-asthma association,” they conclude.


10 thoughts on “Claim: Processed meats cause asthma”

  1. Then drop all this “scientists say” crap about man-made global warming. First, there are many scientists. How many are involved in the man-made debacle and who are they, as well as what is each one’s major field of study. Steve frickin’ Hawking for crying out loud, weighing in. A brilliant astrophysicist, but not a climatologist. Algore, just a politician. They also mentioned a nuclear physicist. Again, how many are climatologists? Second, the money they could make duping the public with this hoax is extreme when the dividends and investment returns come in. People believe what scientists say, or 97% of scientists believe… what scientists? How many? I found only 75 may have been at Paris agreement out of 17,000 or so who are “deniers.” As for data, no way we collected enough since 1979 which is when the satellites went up, to provide the most accurate dat, plus it has been proven in core samples there is no direct correlation between CO2 and global temperature change because there’s not enough CO2 in the atmosphere to make a difference. The evil in this though is that in Alberta, it got frigid, and 14.4 MW turbines only put out 4 MW power due to no wind, and it was cloudy. It the fossil fuel plants had been taken off line, it would have been a disaster.

  2. the famous words “which may have a role” rear their ugly heads once again, and prove this is pure BS.

    I don’t see any mention of controlling and confounding factors presented. What was the air quality at the time? Did any new factories or other changes occur in this time period? Any upwind volcanoes? Etc., etc. Did any of the respondents move to another location in this period? Were any of them tested for allergies?

    The survey asked idiot questions starting: “in the past year…” which supposedly rely on accurate observation and memory of those surveyed. Yeah. Right.

    This is science alright – science fiction.

  3. I am thinking of all the people I grew up with that lived on processed meat because it was the best way to preserve it and many of them lived before the days of universal refrigeration. None of them developed asthma even though they lived beyond their 70 years. The people with asthma were younger and ate what we would consider a “healthy diet”. This is another case of “being a hero” by warning against some “dangerous substance” that has always been considered harmless. Gives lots of publicity.

  4. this seems to be a survey. so the following year did the same subjects, change ther diet and then get surveyed again?
    double blind is the scientific way. survey is only 1 tool.
    just like BMI its a indicator but you cannot make full decisions on it. the marines were going to muster out a lot of troops since the BMI was high but investigating they concluded the BMI was high because so much muscle mass is heavy, the men had very low $ of body fat

  5. “Scientists say” is no longer as effective as it used to be a century ago. Increasingly, it is “Scientists warn”, followed by “Act now”.

    375 Top Scientists Warn Us Not To Vote For Trump

    The effectiveness of that expression is as dubious, but the search for new points of influence is quite apparent.

  6. Anything can be linked to anything, just by making the statement. “Scientists say” is the other classic.

  7. “is linked to”

    This is the danger of allowing the epidemiologists to think they are right…. it will never end this stuff.

  8. Processed meat causes asthma, cancer, and global warming.

    Unprocessed meat spreads enteric infections and causes brain damage.

    Ergo, forget meat. Die in peace; the sooner, the better. Before you die, don’t forget to donate to your local church mitigating climate change in Peru.

  9. Any chance somebody could present data in a comprehensible manner, you know, how many people experienced worsening symptoms in each group and how many in that group. Everybody agrees that reporting percentages is misleading so why do you keep doing it?

  10. From all that I’ve learned about experimentation and testing, this processed meat “testing” has no grounds on which it can be called scientific, and no basis by which a valid conclusion can be reached.

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