As requested from my dear friend Jackie…today’s food for thought is nitrates. And nitrites. And hotdogs. Especially in time for Notre Dame football season, during which I often consume plenty of the above along with several servings of jalapeno nachos smothered in florescent orange chemical cheese-like product. (Thanks for the laugh Elaine Ellis.) Thank God I don’t go to more than 2 football games in a year.
For this post, I have outsourced to Dr. Carol Watson, RN and Naturopathic Doctor. She had a wonderful article on the topic awhile back. So wonderful in fact, that I will just place an excerpt from it right in here for you all to read:
…All of those dangers aside, I would like to bring to your attention, what I consider the most life-threatening ingredient in hot dogs (and all processed meats, i.e. Luncheon meats): Sodium Nitrate/nitrite. Nitrates are changed into nitrites by metabolism when we eat them, or by the action with the protein of raw meat being cured. Such is the case with hot dogs. Hot dogs contain nitrites which are used as preservatives, primarily to combat botulism. During the cooking process, nitrites combine with amines naturally present in meat to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds. It is also suspected that nitrites can combine with amines in the human stomach to form N-nitroso compounds. These compounds are known carcinogens and have been associated with cancer of the oral cavity, urinary bladder, esophagus, stomach and brain (2).
And, how do all these chemical additives/preservatives affect our children? Listed below are just three of the different studies that have found the consumption of hot dogs to be a risk factor for childhood cancer.
Peters et al. studied the relationship between the intake of certain foods and the risk of leukemia in children from birth to age 10 in Los Angeles County between 1980 and 1987. The study found that children eating more than 12 hot dogs per month have nine times the normal risk of developing childhood leukemia. A strong risk for childhood leukemia also existed for those children whose fathers’ intake of hot dogs was 12 or more per month (3).
Researchers Sarusua and Savitz studied childhood cancer cases in Denver and found that children born to mothers who consumed hot dogs one or more times per week during pregnancy have approximately double the risk of developing brain tumors. Children who ate hot dogs one or more times per week were also at higher risk of brain cancer (4), (5).
Bunin et al, also found that maternal consumption of hot dogs during pregnancy was associated with an excess risk of childhood brain tumors (6).
A couple of other studies you may find of interest for adults:
According to a University of Hawaii study that followed nearly 200,000 people for seven years, people who consumed the most processed meats (hot dogs and sausage) showed a 67% increase risk of pancreatic cancer over those who consumed little or no processed meat products.
Researchers found that eating processed meat 5 or more times/week increased a man’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by nearly 50% (7).
The risk of colon cancer increases by 50% with long-term consumption of high amounts of processed meats such as hot dogs (8).
Buyer beware, because all cured meats contain nitrites. These include bacon, cold cuts, lunch meats, deli meats, and smoked fish. Learn to read your labels! Also know that not all hot dogs and cured meats have nitrites now. Because of modern refrigeration methods, nitrites are now used more for the red color they produce (which is associated with freshness) than for preservation. Nitrite-free hot dogs, while they taste the same as nitrite hot dogs, have a brownish color that has limited their popularity among consumers. You can find these at your local health food market (also look for nitrite free turkey bacon and turkey cold cuts if you must have these foods).
I’ve already purchased some ‘uncured’ all beef hotdogs for tailgating purposes in hopes that I won’t consume the usual suspects inside the stadium. Try Applegate Farms: “All of the meat, none of the mystery” Ingredients: Organic Grass-Fed Beef, Water, Contains Less Than 2% Of The Following: Sea Salt, Organic Spices, Organic Garlic Powder, Organic Paprika, Celery Powder, Organic Onion Powder, Lactic Acid Starter Culture (Not From Milk).
1. “Hot Dog Facts”-see www.vesrv.com/hd_facts.htm
2. Lijinsky W, Epstein, S. “Nitrosamines as environmental carcinogens,” Nature 225 (5227): 2112, 1970.
3. Peters J, et al “Processed meats and risk of childhood leukemia (California, USA)” Cancer Causes & Control 5: 195-202, 1994.
4. Sarasua S, Savitz D. ” Cured and broiled meat consumption in relation to childhood cancer: Denver, Colorado (United States),” Cancer Causes & Control 5:141-8, 1994.
5. Kahn, E., G. Bunin, L. Kushi, and J. Brown. 1996. Maternal cured meat consumption and risk of childhood brain tumor: Other explanations. Am J Epidemiol 139:S9.
6. Bunin GR, et al. “Maternal diet and risk of astrocytic glioma in children: a report from the children’s cancer group (United States and Canada),” Cancer Causes & Control 5:177-87, 1994.
7. Diabetes Care; March 2002; 25:417-42.
8. Journal of the American Medical Association; January 12, 2005; 293(2):172-182.