A new study revealed that regular consumption of processed or cured meat could worsen symptoms of asthma, including difficulty in breathing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

The study, published in the BMJ journal Thorax, suggests that the preservatives used, as well as the high content of salt and fats, in cured meat plays a role in the in worsening symptoms of asthma.

For the study, the researchers drew on the data from participants in the French Epidemiological study on the Genetics and Environment of Asthma (EGEA). Among the EGEA participants, 971 adults completed food frequency questionnaires, asthma symptoms scores and demographic data.

Among the participants, 42 percent reported to have an asthma at some point between 2003 and 2007. About 51 percent reported to be non-smokers, 35 percent were overweight and nine percent were obese.

According to a press release, the researchers focused on asthma symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest tightness and difficulty in breathing, in the preceding 12 months. The participants reported to consume 2.5 servings of cured or processed meat in a week, with one serving equivalent to two slices of ham, one sausage or two slices of salami.

The researchers observed an association between increased weekly consumption of cured meat and worsening asthma symptoms. Among the participants eating no more than one serving of cured meat in a week, 14 percent experience worse asthma symptoms. On the other hand, among those who ate one to four servings and more than four servings of cured meat, the proportion of those with worsening asthma symptoms were 20 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

After considering several factors, such as smoking, regular exercise, age, sex and educational attainment, the researchers found that those who ate the most cured meat in a week were 76 percent more likely to experience worsening asthma symptoms than those who ate less.