We’ve all heard it, you are what you eat. For me lately, that probably makes me a Brussels Sprout or perhaps a nice bowl of soup. Something about the winter just makes me want to curl up with a nice hot meal and enjoy. I have been a vegetarian for over a decade. I don’t really have a super specific reason for this choice. At this point, I doubt I’ll be going back to eating meat anytime soon. It’s been so long doing the meatless eating thing I don’t really know if it has had any noticeable impacts on my health in general or my asthma specifically. Obliviously, our diets have some role in our overall well-being it’s just hard for me to point to a specific thing about my health that I can attribute to my vegetarian eating habits. As the inspirational poster at my old gym said: “My body is a temple and I will make it worthy of praise”. Some days that is a temple of chocolate while other days it is a temple of leafy greens.
Cured Meats and Asthma
It looks like I may have a new reason to stick to my vegetarian convictions. There is a correlation between consuming a large amount of cured meats and worsening asthma.1 I will admit enjoying some hams, sausages, and the like over my omnivorous years. Cured meats are also considered to be a carcinogen by the World Health Organization.1 Cured meats already have established ties to lung cancer, reduced lung function, and a negative effect on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.1 Certainly doesn’t sound like something I’d like to put into my body even though previous studies of asthma and cured meat had been inconclusive.1
Researchers suspect that there are two ways in which cured meats increase asthma symptoms. First, the meats contain large amounts of nitrates which can lead to cell damage through nitrosative and oxidative stress. Additionally cured meats increase the levels of C-reactive protein which is linked to inflammation in the immune system.1 More inflammation and damaged cells aren’t essential parts of an afternoon snack for me. This latest study looked at a cross-section of the population in France. They broke the group down into low, medium, or high cured meat consumption. The research controlled for a number of factors including smoking, physical activity, age, sex, and educational level. They found that those who ate high levels of cured meats were 76% more likely than low consumers to have worsening asthma symptoms.1 High consumption was considered 4 or more servings per week of cured meats.1 Obviously, there could be another unknown factor that would explain these symptom changes. One factor that the results seem to rule out is being overweight. They found that a person’s body mass index was only responsible for 14% of increased asthma severity. This data makes me look at a ham sandwich in a whole new light. Since I’m not a meat eater doesn’t instigate any lifestyle change for me. How about you? Will you be swapping your lunch time favorites?