Preservatives that don’t preserve your Health- Sodium Nitrates/ Nitrites

What are preservatives?

Preservatives are chemicals added to food to prevent them from spoiling. In years past, salting and dehydration were used by our ancestors to preserve food. However, with advances in food sciences, chemicals were created, that greatly extended the shelf-life of food. This gave rise to the processed, and preserved foods that currently dominate the American, and western world diet.

What is sodium nitrate/nitrite?

Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite are salts that are added to meats such as bacon, hot dogs, salami and other deli or cured meats to inhibit bacterial growth (which can cause serious illnesses like botulism.) These preservatives enable meat to last for days, or weeks longer, when compared to meats, that do not contain these preservatives. Additionally, sodium nitrates/nitrites are used, because they give meat that pretty red color people find appealing, and add that “salty goodness,” people associate with bacon and deli meats.

Why should we avoid sodium nitrate/nitrite?

Although these preservatives are designed to make meat last longer, they have been found to have the opposite effect on human health.  Consumption of sodium nitrates/ nitrites have been linked to:

1 Cancer (in particular colorectal cancer) as the body converts these substances into carcinogens or cancer causing chemicals (especially when processed meats are fried or barbecued.)

2 Elevated risk of heart disease as these preservatives may cause hardening of the blood vessels or atherosclerosis.

3 Increased chances of developing diabetes as these preservatives affect the way your body processes sugar.

4 “Blue baby” syndrome (methemoglobinemia) in children who consume diets high in processed meats, as these preservatives affect the ability of the blood to carry oxygen, resulting in lower levels of oxygen, causing the bluish appearance of the skin, associated with this condition. This can result in a coma, or death, if not treated.

In order to safeguard the health of you and your family:

1 Avoid consuming processed meats whenever possible.  The less you consume, the better it is for your health.

2 If you do buy bacon or deli meats, buy organic, and nitrite/nitrate free products.[i]

The days of eating mystery meat are over. Make sure you know what you are eating, what it contains, and how it affect your health. What you don’t know can potentially hurt you and your health.

Always Remember- Foods are like friends. Choose them wisely! 

[i] (The nitrate/nitrite free products often times may have high salt levels, which is used as a preservative instead of the nitrites/nitrates. This can affect those with hypertension or heart disease.)

Sources of information for article are below:

1 Ibrahim, Saima. “Preserved Food Hazardous.” Economic Review (05318955) 41.3 (2010): 7-10. Military & Government Collection. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

2 Gilbère, G. “Casualties Of Progress: Highly Toxic, Disease-Promoting Ingredients That Are Legal In Our Food Supply.” Total Health 30.3 (2008): 42-43. CINAHL Complete. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

3 Palmer, Sharon. “Safety Of Preservatives Explored.” Environmental Nutrition 36.9 (2013): 1-6. Academic Search Alumni Edition. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

4 Erkekoglu, Pinar, and Terken Baydar. “Evaluation Of The Protective Effect Of Ascorbic Acid On Nitrite- And Nitrosamine-Induced Cytotoxicity And Genotoxicity In Human Hepatoma Line.” Toxicology Mechanisms And Methods 20.2 (2010): 45-52. MEDLINE Complete. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

5 Erkekoglu, Pinar, and Terken Baydar. “Evaluation Of Nitrite Contamination In Baby Foods And Infant Formulas Marketed In Turkey.” International Journal Of Food Sciences And Nutrition 60.3 (2009): 206-209. MEDLINE Complete. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

6 Asero, R. “Nitrate Intolerance.” Allergy 55.7 (2000): 680. Academic Search Alumni Edition. Web. 21 Feb. 2017

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