Study Suggests Bacon Could Help Treat Arthritis

This story was originally published on April 1st, 2012 as part of an April Fool’s Day prank and promotion. It should in no way be considered as “real” news.

Researchers from a prominent American university believe that they have discovered an unusual (and very tasty) way to treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) — bacon.

In studies conducted at Minnesota State University (MSU) in Minneapolis, lead author and biology professor Marty Lunde and colleagues found that those who consumed at least two strips worth of the popular cured, salted meat reported experiencing less joint pain and stiffness than RA sufferers who dined on a vegetarian breakfast.

According to an MSU press release, Lunde combined interviews with study participants as well as statistics obtained from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) to analyze both culinary choices for the first meal of each given day and each individual’s self-rating for pain/discomfort level in relation to his or her RA symptoms.

Lunde admits that he and his colleagues went into the study expecting to discover that breakfasts that were light on cured meat and heavy on healthier items such as yogurt or fruit would be better for those suffering from arthritis, and were stunned when they discovered that the opposite was actually true — that individuals who dined on heavier breakfasts, particularly those that included bacon, reported less discomfort on average.

“It definitely is a curious discovery, and one that none of us expected,” the MSU professor said in a statement. “It has long been accepted by the scientific community that cured meats like bacon and sausages were extremely poor choices when it comes to a healthy diet, but now we see that there may yet be some value in these types of foods — in moderation, of course.”

While the findings may be surprising, experts say that are not without medical basis.

“While medical experts have not been able to discern exactly what causes rheumatoid arthritis, we do know that it is an autoimmune disease which causes the body’s own natural defenses to attack healthy tissue in the joins,” Dean Simon, a general care physician and a member of the Lancaster International Endocrinology Society (LIES), told reporters on Friday.

Simon explained that the fat in bacon contains linoleic acid, which can help control inflammation in afflicted joints, and that the sodium content of the meat is involved both in the digestion of protein and the process of muscle contraction. However, he advises that despite the findings of the MSU study, that bacon may not be the best source of either fat or salt, because the fat content of the product is approximately 40% saturated and that it could contain upwards of 200mg of sodium per slice.

Previous studies have not been so kind to the popular breakfast meat. A 2007 Columbia University study discovered that those who ate cured meats, like bacon, 14 times per month or more had a higher risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to BBC News reports.

Likewise, in a May 2010 study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) discovered that individuals who regularly consumed bacon or other processed meats like sausage had a 42% higher risk of contracting heart disease and a 19% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Conversely, they discovered no increased risk of developing either condition among those who regularly ate unprocessed beef, pork, or lamb.

“When we looked at average nutrients in unprocessed red and processed meats eaten in the United States, we found that they contained similar average amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol. In contrast, processed meats contained, on average, 4 times more sodium and 50% more nitrate preservatives,” lead author Renata Micha, a research fellow in the department of epidemiology at HSPH, said in a statement.

“This suggests that differences in salt and preservatives, rather than fats, might explain the higher risk of heart disease and diabetes seen with processed meats, but not with unprocessed red meats,” Micha added.

Image Credit: Philip Stridh / Shutterstock

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