Transcript: When Nitrites Go Bad
Our story begins on a Norwegian fur farm in 1957. Mink were dropping dead left and right from a malignant new liver disease. The clue came when livestock starting dying from liver cancer as well. What tied all the cases together was the use of fish meal in their diets—fish meal that the country had just started preserving with sodium nitrite.
Subsequent research discovered nitrite, under certain circumstances, can form nitrosamines, which directly attack DNA, and are universally condemned as one of the key carcinogens in cigarette smoke. The occurrence in food was raised as a matter of gravest concern nearly a half century ago. Now, we know the nitrites added to processed meats can form these carcinogenic nitrosamines—now recognized as among the most potent chemical carcinogens.
For example, pregnant women who eat hot dogs risk having children with brain tumors—the #2 pediatric cancers. Then, children, who eat lots of hot dogs, have nearly ten times the odds of developing childhood leukemia—the #1 pediatric cancer.
Last year, in Meat Science, an article about the role of ham in a healthy diet breathed a sigh of relief: “[A]spects relating to health and wellbeing are increasingly important factors in consumer decisions, although the great palatability of ham largely outweighs such considerations.”
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 MaryAnn Allison.
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