sodium nitrite

From Junk Food Science

In the low-carb, paleo, keto world, we’re always banging on about the advantages of eating bacon, but some people have concerns.

One set is about eating saturated fat.  Worry not: the “science” that says that saturated fat is bad for your arteries is wrong, but I’ll deal with that elsewhere.  Another concern is is with nitrates and nitrites: don’t they cause cancer?

Well, there seems to be some conflicting evidence, but here are some references that suggest not.  To summarise: bacon is preserved pork: nitrates are naturally occurring substances that have been used for centuries to turn belly pork into bacon.  Nitrates occur in the soil, and in many vegetables; in fact bacon that is advertised as “no added nitrates” is not really telling the truth: they use celery (sounds healthy) which is a good source of nitrates.

One of the posts below opens with this eye-catching question:

Which of these sources will give you the most ingested nitrites:

467 servings of hotdogs

1 serving arugula

2 servings butterhead lettuce

4 servings celery or beets

your spit

The answer is obvious … or is it?

You’ll have to do the reading to find the answer, but I think you’ll be surprised!

It’s a longer story than that, of course, and if you want chapter and verse (some people need to track down the research, and that is important), here are some starting points.

Facts About Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite
Good or Bad? Nitrates and Nitrites in Food
The content of nitrates and nitrites in fruits, vegetables and other foodstuffs
Nitrates In Vegetables Protect Against Gastric Ulcers, Study Shows
Does banning hotdogs and bacon make sense?
The “No Nitrites Added” Hoax
Toxicity of Sodium Nitrite (Wikipedia)
The Nitrate and Nitrite Myth: Another Reason not to Fear Bacon
“The fear of nitrates from bacon has no basis in reality”
NTP Technical report on the toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of Sodium Nitrite (11MB PDF)

(This list originally compiled by Roger D Enochs)

Roger posted a quote from the PDF:

Under the conditions of this 2-year drinking water study, there was no evidence of carcinogenic activity of sodium nitrite in male or female F344/N rats exposed to 750, 1,500, or 3,000 ppm. There was no evidence of carcinogenic activity of sodium nitrite in male B6C3F1 mice exposed to 750, 1,500, or 3,000 ppm. There was equivocal evidence of carcinogenic activity of sodium nitrite in female B6C3F1 mice based on the positive trend in the incidences of squamous cell papilloma or carcinoma (combined) of the forestomach.
Exposure to sodium nitrite in drinking water resulted in increased incidences of epithelial hyperplasia in the forestomach of male and female rats and in the glan- dular stomach of male mice.
Decreased incidences of mononuclear cell leukemia occurred in male and female rats.
Further, the USDA standard for for nitrate and nitrite levels in food[2] limits it to 200 ppm for nitrate and nitrite combined. We get much more dietary nitrate from vegetables than from cured meat, unless you eat a diet of primarily cured meat.
As established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the Meat Inspection Regulations cited above, the use of nitrites, nitrates, or combinations of them cannot result in more than 200 parts per million (ppm), calculated as sodium nitrite, in the finished product.
It has been estimated that 10 percent of the human exposure to nitrite in the digestive tract comes from cured meats and 90 percent comes from vegetables and other sources. Nitrates can be reduced to nitrites by certain microorganisms present in foods and in the gastrointestinal tract. This has resulted in nitrite toxicity in infants fed vegetables with a high nitrate level. No evidence currently exists implicating nitrite itself as a carcinogen.
The 200 ppm level is well below the levels used in the above tests (750-5000 ppm), and even those high levels found no links to cancer (at least in rodents). Perhaps there are other health issues, but cancer is the one I always hear about, and the evidence does not appear to be there. A quick search didn’t turn up any research regarding nitrates and the liver.”

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