Transcript: Are Nitrates Pollutants or Nutrients?
We know cured meat increase cancer risk— childhood leukemia, for example—yet higher intake of vegetables are associated with a reduced risk . How can nitrites be bad in meat, but good when they originate in our own stomach from all the nitrates we get from green leafy vegetables?
Well, one possibility could be that nitrates are not good, — and such a case has been made, blaming the rise in Alzheimers, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and the kitchen sink on not only the rise in fast food and processed meat, but also the use of nitrate-containing fertilizers on our crops. Now this was dismissed as an unsupportable conclusion, but by a vice president of the Fertilizer Institute, so how do we know that’s not just a load of bull? And speaking of manure, organic producers in fact brag that their vegetables are significantly lower in nitrates.
So nitrates in plants, it just a matter of too much of a good thing? Are nitrates in foods harmful or healthy?
Before our heads explode, let’s go back to the basics: the facts of the case. The nitrosamines are the carcinogens. The nirtosamines are what cause the cancers. The only reason we’re concerned about nitrites, is that under certain circumstances then can form nitrosamines. And the only reason we’re worried about nitrates is that they form nitrites, which, again, under certain cirumstances can form nitrosamines. The nitrites themselves are fine— in fact amazing—that what all the new beet juice and blood pressure evidence I showed points to. — The nitrates turn into nitrites which turns into nitric oxide, which helps are arteries and athletic performance. So as long as nitrites turn into N.O.; we’re good. It’s only when they turn into nitrosamines that they cause trouble.
So the answer to the riddle—finally—lies in the circumstances in which nitrites form nitrosamines. And that circumstance is the absence of phytonutrients. —Phytonutrients like caffeic acid found in all plants, ferulic acid, ascorbic acid—vitamin C, and others. So, nitrates plus plant foods, no problem, but is there any vitamin C in meat? No. So nitrosamines preform in the meat before it even make it into our mouths. It’s not so much that we’re eating the nitrites added to the meat, but the nitrosamines formed in the meat when they added the nitrites in the first place. Nitrites in the absence of plants turn into carcinogenic nitrosamines.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.
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