Processed and cured meat could worsen Asthma symptoms, researchers said in a recent study.

Four or more weekly servings of high-dietary processed meat, such as ham, sausage and salami, is linked to worsening asthma symptoms, data from participants in the French Epidemiological study on the Genetics and Environment of Asthma (EGEA) shows.

Cured and processed meat is rich in the preservative nitrite, which could lead to airway inflammation, a common asthma symptom.

The study, published online in the journal Thorax, was based on data from almost 1,000 adults.

For the study, cured meat intake was classified as low for one or fewer weekly servings, medium for 1-4 weekly servings and high for four or more. Meanwhile, asthma symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, chest tightness and shortness of breath, in the previous 12 months were scored from 0 to 5. Other data, like smoking, regular physical activity, age, sex, and education level, were also gathered from participants.

Cured and Processed Meat Intake and Asthma Symptoms

“Between 2003 and 2007, 42 percent 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,” the study found.

Those in the study said they ate an average of 2.5 servings of cured or processed meat a week. Years later, when the participants were checked again between 2011-2013, there was no change in their asthma symptom score for 53 percent of them. One in five participants had their asthma symptoms worsen, and one in four saw their symptoms improve.

One or less a week:

Among participants who ate one or less weekly servings of cured or processed meat, 14 percent saw their asthma worsen.

1-4 servings a week:

The study found that 20 percent of participants who ate 1-4 cured or processed meat servings per week saw their asthma get worse.

More than 4 servings weekly:

Twenty-two percent of participants who ate four serving weekly saw their asthma symptoms worsen.

“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,” the study found.

However, researchers emphasized that the study does not prove the link between processed meats and asthma.

"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," researchers concluded.