When Nitrites Go Bad

When Nitrites Go Bad
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Nitrites in processed meat form nitrosamines, a class of potent carcinogens found in cigarette smoke, which may explain why hot dog consumption has been associated with the two leading pediatric cancers, brain tumors and childhood leukemia.

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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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to the CancerProject.org and Ben Grey via Flickr

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to the CancerProject.org and Ben Grey via Flickr

Doctor's Note

So might not the nitrites produced in our mouths, when we eat vegetables, form carcinogens too? (See Priming the Proton Pump for an overview of the nitrate-to-nitrite process.) Don’t worry, we’re getting to that. In the meantime, what is really in hot dogs anyway? Glad you asked—see my video What Is Really In Hot Dogs?. For more on preventing brain tumors in children, see #1 Anticancer Vegetable (and the prequel Veggies vs. Cancer). And for more on preventing blood cancers, see Meat & Multiple Myeloma.

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: Using Greens to Improve Athletic PerformanceTreating COPD With DietEating Green to Prevent CancerHow Chemically Contaminated Are We?How Tumors Use Meat to GrowAvoiding Cooked Meat Carcinogens; and  Should We Avoid Titanium Dioxide?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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