Jun 26, 2002
By Hannah Cleaver
BERLIN (Reuters Health)
Eating certain smoked sausages in childhood seems to be linked to an increased risk of developing the multiple sclerosis later in life, researchers said on Wednesday.
The findings support other studies that have pointed to the same association and suggest that nitrates used in meat preparation combined with chemicals in smoke could be causing autoimmune problems.
Marcel Geilenkeuser, from the Darmstadt Clinic in Germany, and colleagues looked at the childhood diets of 177 MS patients and 88 controls, focusing on how much hot-smoked sausage, cold-smoked sausage, cold-smoked meat and other foods such as butter or oat flakes that they ate.
Geilenkeuser also took into account the socioeconomic status of the patients' families for his doctorate study, which he presented here at the 12th Meeting of the European Neurological Society.
The consumption of all three smoked meat products was associated with MS, he found. More detailed statistical analysis showed that hot-smoked sausages (p=0.0001) and animal fat intake (p=0.028) made an independent contribution to MS risk.
"There were a number of drawbacks to the way the study had to be done, for example, and I do not want anyone to take it as conclusive," the researcher cautioned
"Having said that, though," he continued, "it does support previous work which suggested a link between the combination of nitrates and nitrites used to prepare meat for production of smoked sausages, and the phenols from smoke, with the production of nitrophenols which are connected with autoimmunity problems."
He said that MS, which only emerged at the start of the 19th century, could not simply be related to the chemicals in wood smoke. Communities in northern Europe, he said, had smoked their foods for many centuries without developing MS, but had not used nitrates or nitrites on the meat or fish before smoking.
Nitrogenous chemicals are generally used to ensure that meat does not lose its color during the smoking process, he said.
Further study of the subject would be justified, he said, ideally with
200 newly-diagnosed MS patients and a 200-strong control group.
© 2002 Reuters Ltd