Background and objectives: Cured ham is one of the most characteristic foods in the Spanish diet. Because it is a red processed meat and due to its nutritional composition, including high sodium content, a potential association between cured ham consumption and a higher risk of hypertension could be expected. However, epidemiological studies evaluating this association are scarce. We prospectively assessed the association between cured ham consumption and the incidence of hypertension.
Methods: The "Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra" (SUN) study is a cohort of Spanish middle-aged adult university graduates (average age: 38 (SD: 12) years, 60% women). We included 13,900 participants of the SUN cohort free of hypertension at baseline. One serving of cured ham is 50g. They were classified into 4 categories of cured ham consumption: <1; 1; 2-4 and ¿5servs/week. Multivariable-adjusted Cox regression models were fitted to assess the association between cured ham consumption and subsequent hypertension risk using the category of lowest consumption as the reference.
Results: After a median follow-up of 10.9 years, 1465 incident self-reported cases of hypertension were identified. After adjusting for potential confounders, including dietary confounders, a high consumption of cured ham (¿5servs/week vs. <1serv/week) was not significantly associated with hypertension risk in this prospective cohort (HR=0.88, 95% CI: 0.70-1.10, p linear trend=0.40).
Conclusions: Our results showed that cured ham consumption was not associated with a significantly higher or lower risk of hypertension in a prospective cohort of Spanish middle-aged adult university graduates. Further longitudinal and experimental studies are needed to disentangle the association between cured ham consumption and the risk of hypertension.