Processed Meats

Processed Meats Too Dangerous for Human Consumption

In All Health Watch, Breast Cancer, Cancer, Health Warning, Prostate Cancer by INH Research280 Comments

Update: The World Cancer Research Fund caught wind of this article just after it went live. They scrambled to let people know they had nothing to do with it. In fact, their official response was “The articles talking about processed meat being ‘too dangerous for human consumption’ are unhelpful and scaremongering.” Yet in the same post, they tell you to avoid this stuff because it can cause bowel cancer.

We’re not scaremongering. But we’re not afraid to tell our readers the truth.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has completed a detailed review of more than 7,000 clinical studies covering links between diet and cancer.1 Bottom line: Processed meats are too dangerous for human consumption. Consumers should stop buying and eating all processed meat products for the rest of their lives.

Processed meats include bacon, sausage, hot dogs, sandwich meat, packaged ham, pepperoni, salami and virtually all red meat used in frozen prepared meals. They are usually manufactured with a carcinogenic ingredient known as sodium nitrite.2 This is used as a color fixer by meat companies to turn packaged meats a bright red color so they look fresh. Unfortunately, sodium nitrite also results in the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines in the human body. And this leads to a sharp increase in cancer risk for those who eat them.

A 2005 University of Hawaii study found that processed meats increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by 67 percent.3 Another study revealed that every 50 grams of processed meat consumed daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent.4 These are alarming numbers. Note that these cancer risks do not come from eating fresh, non-processed meats. They only appear in people who regularly consume processed meat products containing sodium nitrite.

Sodium nitrite appears predominantly in red meat products (you won’t find it in chicken or fish products). Here’s a short list of food items to check carefully for sodium nitrite and monosodium glutamate (MSG), another dangerous additive:

  • Beef jerky
  • Bacon
  • Sausage
  • Hot dogs
  • Sandwich meat
  • Frozen pizza with meat
  • Canned soups with meat
  • Frozen meals with meat
  • Ravioli and meat pasta foods
  • Kid’s meals containing red meat
  • Sandwich meat used at popular restaurants
  • Nearly all red meats sold at public schools, restaurants, hospitals, hotels and theme parks

If sodium nitrite is so dangerous to humans, why do the FDA and USDA continue to allow this cancer-causing chemical to be used? The answer, of course, is that food industry interests now dominate the actions by U.S. government regulators. The USDA, for example, tried to ban sodium nitrite in the late 1970’s but was overridden by the meat industry.5 It insisted the chemical was safe and accused the USDA of trying to “ban bacon.”

Today, the corporations that dominate American food and agricultural interests hold tremendous influence over the FDA and USDA. Consumers are offered no real protection from dangerous chemicals intentionally added to foods, medicines and personal care products.

You can protect yourself and your family from the dangers of processed meats by following a few simple rules:

  1. Always read ingredient labels.
  2. Don’t buy anything made with sodium nitrite or monosodium glutamate.
  3. Don’t eat processed meats served by restaurants, schools, hospitals, hotels or other institutions.

And finally, eat more fresh produce with every meal. There is evidence that natural vitamin C found in citrus fruits and exotic berries (like camu camu) helps prevent the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines, protecting you from the devastating health effects of sodium nitrite in processed meats. The best defense, of course, is to avoid eating processed meats altogether.

These are great ways to start lowering your risk. But they aren’t the only natural ways to fight cancer… Some cancer-killers may already be in your kitchen.

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  1. Reading this post on my phone probably have me cancer

    1. “defines processed meat as “meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or addition of chemical preservatives.”…I am all against chemical preservatives, but before refrigeration, smoking, curing, and salting was the only way to preserve meat…and the cancer rates in the “Little House on the Prairie Days” was not even close to the cancers we have now. Cooking meats properly also removed a lot of food borne illnesses, and yet it is said that increases cancer causing chemicals. The human body was not designed for a vegetarian only diet, our teeth show that. I see a vegetarian vegan agenda…and I have never seen a completely healthy vegetarian or vegan…just sickly smug ones.

      1. I am vegan: seriously I am healthy and 75yrs of age. 10 years ago I had 19cm of bowel removed for rectal cancer 18 months after I had most of the left lung removed. Both cancers were not connected. I know I will not have cancer any more with a vegan diet and Juniper charcoal as my medicine. If we wan to live we have to do some thing about it. I used to think like you.I thought too that vegans were weirdos. How ignorant I was. I wrote a book to pass on what I am living proof os. ‘What Did I Eat Today? Kathleen Bartholomew or Amazon
        I had already lost prematurely my Dad and mum through cancer and two brothers Tony died with colon cancer at 33 yrs old and David at 38yrs old. Hope you don’t have any of these problems, but some people do and it is a wicked disease that we need to face and do something about it. Die by all means painfree not of cancer.

      2. What a lot of nonsense and some underlying anger there too. I am a “Smug” vegetarian and if you look at all the countries where 1st world meat and milk consumption has not infiltrated you will also find a healthy community. The western world is the sickest community of people on the planet. We were not designed to drink Cows milk and we don’t need meat to be healthy. Thankfully, the view that we are all “sickly” is now so unfounded and a revolution is happening where more people are realising that real vegetables and legumes and nuts are the way forward for health. Your teeth theory is a sad and old tale.Eating meat flesh is also unsustainable for our future and with so many wonder products like “Jack” fruits and hemp and Chia seeds we have enough protein and completes proteins for a very healthy lifestyle. Many athletes are vegetarian and more are turning to it including body builders. Google it to find out more. The meat industry is producing more and more foods that have additives within the meat products. cancer forming products and hormone growth products that may be responsible for the estrogen dominance and increase in infertility. Check out your chicken consumption Another fascinating one to google. I will not judge your character as you did mine but I will say “Be the change you want to see in the world” I want sustainability, good health, and an irradiation of all cruelty including animal cruelty. I want a life of harmony and peace and the pleasure of eating with friends and family knowing I have not over farmed and over indulged. That way we can all enjoy food, really taste food and eat it for what is was made to do and not to anesthetize. Happy plant based eating to you all. It will lead you down a path of contentment and health.

      3. We are only smug because we are healthier and not as fat so it is hard not to be happy. You feel free to be a hateful carnist though. I would never stand between you and a heart attack.

    2. I want a lawyer lawsuit against pork ans beef processing companies And USDA drug and food administration for saying it was safe to eat . I am Wade P. White Sr.

  2. I believe in taking everything I read or hear with a grain of salt. In my opinion this article is taking the original researc and re-wording it to advocate their own point of view. Just because some have chosen to eat a certain way doesn’t mean that everyone needs or must do the same. Even vegetarians get sick & yes get cancer. What about the man that ate nothing but Mcdonalds for years and is perfectly healthy? He has shown no adverse affects what so ever. While I personally wouldn’t choose this as my main meal choice. I do think that everything in moderation is

    1. Helen: If the USDA and the FDA are being controlled by meat corporations, how can you rely on government studies of sodium nitrite? I hope you take it with a grain of salt. There is preference and then there is fundamentally healthy. The two can cross over but usually do not. I believe you are referring to the movie SuperSize Me? The man ate Mcdonalds for only one month solid and displayed a myriad of health problems. He was by no means perfectly healthy.

      1. Oh dear,
        the ‘corporations’ are out to get us!
        All government and independent research is just playing to the big corporationz for profit!!!1!1! The Illuminati is trying to poison our minds in preparation for the reptilian new world order!

        Oh, please! According to conspiracy theorists, the goverment is in league with every industry imaginable just to kill us all for profit. Because killing customers is GREAT for business!

        What a load of paranoid delusional bollocks.

        Processed meat is bad for you, of course it is, it’s fatty and salty and made with poor quality cuts. But no one is suggesting that you eat this stuff all the time.

        Many people have eaten processed meats and McDonald’s and gone on to live perfectly normal, healthy lives.

        1. so the truth is paranoia? do you work for the processed meat industry or what? yup mcdonalds is completely healthy. you are delusional

      2. I cant believe that people choose not to look at the facts. I dont think, there are may politions in any country, that really give a damn about us. Once they are in office all they care about is staying on the gravy train. Please people wake up before it is too late, we have to get back to eating more wholesome foods.

        1. Yes, the reptilians whatever. That isn´t a very strong point for me. I will not believe everything only because there´s a weak youtube video with stupid proofs out there. To begin with people live longer today than years ago, that´s something that you can see by yourself unless you believe in the blible. Work in your inner self instead of trust in every stupid comic-like apocaliptic story (they exist since the first dawn).

          1. Keep in mind people are living longer than ever before today because of modern medicine, treatments for diseases and better surgery etc. We could extend our lives greatly if we just put a little extra effort into looking at what we eat and eating more wholesome foods. I personally would like to be around for my Grandkids to grow up, and to just have a good quality of life with as little pharmuceuticals as needed to keep me alive. I know which path I will take

        2. You’re right we do. But nobody mentions the healthy vaccine and health-disease prevention called “exercise”. I guess they just expect everybody to quit this stuff cold turkey. But also, our bodies weren’t made to sit on our ass all the time. If some1 ate mcdonalds “trans fats and all” for a whole year and exercised regularly, yes I believe he’d be healthy as a horse.

          1. You can not outrun or outlift bad nutrition.

            1. Posted by on April 05, 2012 at 12:58 am Nicky,No worries! There is always way to much to do. But what I really like about this is we can do this together. So far it’s been working pretty well. I’ve seen a ton of comments and re-pins. As well as heard that people are connecting and meeting new bloggers…which is the main reason after all. So anytime you’re re##;&a8230ywe&d8217;ll leave the light on!Ken

    2. Helen, people like you irritate me. You pretend to play devil’s advocate, but you can not recognize the devil. Get an education first, before you spout wrong, vague, and un-useful information.

      McDonalds food is not food–it is processed garbage with flavorings to make you think it taste good. But it has no taste nor nutrients. You should record the ingredients in everything you eat and use on your skin for 1 day, and let me know how that list looks at the end of the day. Or week, or year.

      Yes vegetarians get cancer, but that does not prove your not-well-thought-out thought. Compare the rates and look at the diet, even by country. I am guessing you do not read anything about health or nutrition, yet I am sure you have many opinions. Why are you trusting people who profit from keeping you in the dark, just because you can’t stop eating garbage?

      1. Maury you are the most pretentious dumb f*** on this whole entire message board.
        Go choke on some vegetables, or maybe we will get lucky and a stampede of cows will trample you.

        1. Hey commenter above with the OBVIOUSLY STUPID FAKE NAME… go and give yourself an uppercut and stop hassling people. YOU are the biggest d!psh!7 on this board, sunshine. Now go fug off. Thank you. clappity clap.

          1. No, that was definitely Obama. It’s well known that the President frequents comment sections of fringe articles to call out loons for their inanities.

        2. All hail barack obama.
          Your health care will cure are cancer.
          bacon for life.

      2. Do not listen to anyone in medicine, pay close attention instead to the fly the gnat and the natural process of decomposing. These bugs have the God given ability to sniff out any no good food much better than our friend the dog,Take 2 or 3 pcs of processed meats place them on your garage floor in summer leave them there for three days, If nothing lands on it, beware!

      3. Maury, people like you irritate me.
        Your arrogance does your argument no favors.

        You dismiss Helen’s point out of hand but provide nothing in return but hot air.

        Helen has a good point – skepticism is a good thing and is a sign of an educated mind. You could learn from her.

        You did say this:
        “Why are you trusting people who profit from keeping you in the dark”
        What about the vested interests of websites like this?
        Isn’t that exactly what they’re doing?

        Websites like this profit from your mistrust of mainstream medicine. It’s in their best interests to keep you distrustful of mainstream medical knowledge – because then they can sell you their ‘medicine’ and ‘medical knowledge’ instead.

        What makes this site and it’s vested interests more trustworthy?

      4. Maury, your comment is incredibly true! Keep track of what you eat and defiantly consume more vegetables…”Barak Obama” below you is obviously a raging idiot…and also please do not choke on any vegetables.

      5. Helen was talking about the guy who has eaten a big mac every day for years(no fries) and is perfectly healthy. Look it up. She was not referring to “supersize me”. Everything in moderation. Quit the conspiracy theories and cries for attention.

      6. Where do i subscribe to ur health care magazine.

        BTW i think i saw u on food network on tv. :O

    3. I haven’t heard of any man who ate Mcdonalds and lived a long age. But I know of a woman who got her life saved because she ate fast food for every meal. You know why? Because the woman ordered stuff from this same fast food joint. She ate them all day. One day the shop didn’t get the order. So the restaurant staff were worried so they sent the food anyway just to check why the order was not there. You know what the staff found out? They found the woman collapsed from a heart attack or stroke or something. Because she didn’t order the fast food that day, her life got saved. So all those years of eating fast food made her life short but got saved because she didn’t order fast food that day. 🙂 This is a true story. You may find the source in the web.

      1. Good story, but if she was eating healthy in the first place she wouldn’t suffer from a heart attack or stroke, think straight here the fast food she been eating cause her to have those symptoms, she built a customer relation with that fast food chain , so she skip an order they brought it to her and realized that she on the floor from either a heart attack or stroke, Yes she got save, but her fast food eating cause
        those symptoms. Corporate America has blind you folks that’s all.

        1. Right on Joe, word up.

    4. Helen, here is a good rule of thumb to live by. If the meat did not grow in that package then you should not eat it. Now, it is true that everyone has to make their own decisions on what they do with their bodies but McDonalds? Really? Tell ya what take a McDonalds French fry and put it under the seat of your car today and then come back the day before Christmas and ask yourself “Why does it still like as fresh as the day I bought it” REAL FOOD does not do that!!

    5. That would be labeled as a “Study of 1” in the medical profession. You cannot base science on “some guy who ate nothing but mcdonalds and is perfectly fine.”

      Its like basing medical decisions on that uncle who “smoked and drank his entire life but lived to be 100” We all have that “uncle” in our family dont we? lol.

      Processed meat is Un-natural. My brother in law is a Colorectal Surgeon and is now seeing colon cancer as young as 17 years old. Guess what? Kids are eating hot dogs, processed school foods etc so young that by the time they are in their 30’s they have advanced stages of colon cancer. I’ll go by a colorectal surgeons advice and not eat processed food… seeing as he has 22 years of experience seeing inside of diseased bowels.

      I also take the time to read “real” medical journals that study thousands of patients and have real results. Curing food with nitrites/nitrates has been directly linked to colon cancer. However, most people live in a state of denial. I’d love to see what would happen when they have to put a “Warning; consumption of this product will have adverse affects and may cause cancer.” Just like cigarettes and Alcohol have warning labels. I’m sure people will still deny it in their minds.

      Eat organic, eat raw fresh food, eat organically raised free range animals who are not pumped with poisons… its logical. Real food tastes good. We breathe polution, we smoke, drink, eat chemicals and expect our health to be A-Okay. Typical.

      1. Amen, Irini–you said it all!

      2. Irini, you’re a very logical and smart person. I agree 100%. We can only put our best foot forward and hope that the uneducated will see the painfully obvious truth. Until then, let the fittest survive. It’s how nature intended. Funny how people want to fight against mother nature and think they can win. She always wins. If you’re not playing by her rules … checkmate!

    6. I tend to agree with Helen. Besides not all processed meats are manufactured with nitrates.

      1. Dana, umm yea I think they are

        1. Yes Rhonda, there are some.I have bought nitrite & nitrate free bacon,for example. Spoils faster and costs more. Kind of like buying organic-higher cost, and harder to find what you want. Carol.

    7. I don’t think they are saying dont eat meat. But what you have to take in is the risks that it involves. And yea you can eat in moderation which is a lot healthier than indulging. But the question is “why risk putting it in your body if you don’t have to?” People need to be more conscience of what they are putting in their body. For the ones who live a longer life that do eat meat…..ask yourself, how many people are that fortunate compared to the ones that do get sick and are laying around waiting for a heart transplant or medical treatment.

    8. My introduction to INH was an article on reducing blood pressure with beetroot juice! The active ingredient being the large concentration of NaNO3 (sodium nitrate) which the body converts to NO (nitrous oxide) which relaxes the walls of blood vessels, lowering BP within minutes. NaNO3 is also in carrot, celery, cucumber, lettuce, spinach … . you can chase it down in pubmed. search “beetroot” for med jnl papers on the subject going back as far as 1985.

      Ive started blasting myself off in the morning with a good cocktail of this lot, I thank you for that, and I am going to keep on doing it.

      What you say here about processed meat as unhealthy is fine, but is NaNO3 the real culprit? Can we see some data?

  3. You know that sodium nitrite is found in most vegetables and is completely safe for human consumption, right? You would have to consume just about an entire teaspoon in one sitting to poison yourself with it and most companies only use about 2-10 ppm of it in processed meats-which is close to the amount found in many of your daily fruits and vegetables. It also makes most of the meats you buy at the grocery store safe for consumption. It almost completely stunts the growth of bacteria and other hazardous diseases, which would other wise have an insanely higher chance at being present in any meat products.As far as producing nitrosamines goes, this has never been proven. There IS a link between ALL meat products and nitrosamines, but there is more proof that it may be caused from the meat decomposing in your stomach which produces chemicals that are not safe for the human body. This has never been linked to sodium itrite, however, it has only been linked to the consumption of meat products. While processed meats may not be good for you because of their nutritional value, I highly doubt that sodium nitrite or monosodium glutamate are the actual causes of half of these “studies”. As far as producing nitrosamines goes, this has never been proven.

    Monosodium glutamate is actually not bad for you at all and has been used for well over 100 years as a flavor additive in packaged foods. It is a naturally occurring amino acid, and amino acids are good for you. Monosodium glutamate is even considered better for you than salt. There have been multiple studies on “MSG Symptom Complex” which is where various people believe that MSG is the cause of their illnesses, but none of these claims have any backing and the belief that MSG can make you sick has been debunked dozens of times in the last 20 years. It is, purely, the placebo effect.

    So none of these additives are actually bad for you unless consumed in quantities that would far outweigh their use.

    Sources: and

    And if you are going to get on my case for using wiki, I can go back and find all of the sources on these pages and post them all individually for you.

    1. That first paragraph was really redundant, sorry about that. I was trying to rearrange my words in a more sensible fashion and didn’t finish editing.

      1. Great info Kristen, I wish more people were as educated or at least willing to do some research as you are

    2. Kristen, you’ve posted a great comment that’s not sensationalist and is backed up by clinical data. Unfortunately it will likely fall on deaf ears as people who zealously claim MSG is harmful are too stupid to actually do their own research and find out it is harmless (as you mentioned.)

      I have a hard time seeing stuff like this on places like Facebook – all it does is propagate ignorance. Ironically, the internet is simultaneously making people both smarter and dumber at the same time, because knowledge is out there but sensationalist fluff like this spreads like wildfire.

    3. please do research for monosodium glutamate & lupus;

    4. Thanks for the informative post. I was ready to pretty much abandon all canned meats, and burgers from fast food restaurants, but then I ran into your comment, and did some digging of information of my own (for example, all of McDonald’s beef patties are 100% beef; I’m assuming they would list sodium nitrate as an ingredient if indeed it was a part of the meat, as McDonald’s does with other ingredients, such as preservatives, in their other food products), and now it seems the problem is made out to be more than what it is.

      Oh, and I checked the actual source of this article, that is this webpage. When it’s named “Institute for Natural Healing”, which isn’t so bad on its own, and then there are articles like “20 years of aging gone in 6 months? These long-held secrets are now out in the open…”… yes, I’m willing to guess the source is making the problem to be more than it really is.

    5. Now that I’ve almost stopped laughing, Kristen, you just keep believing that. Remember though that on the internet you can find anything to “prove” any position.

  4. fine. I keep informed and choose what I eat accordingly. But not based on biased over the top statements. We could die of many things in this lifetime. The risk of being in a car accident for instance isn’t going to stop me from driving. I highly doubt a couple of pieces of bacon once in awhile is going to make as huge an impact as this article would lead us to believe. Besides I like bacon, sausage, hotdogs & pickles. I’m not going to stop eating them because of a possibilty that I may get cancer. Lol, life is to short to worry about what may kill me in the long run.

    1. Life isn’t that short, and it doesn’t have to be. Refined and processed foods have caused death and harm to many. The problem is that you have been raised by commercials lying to you. Real food in this country is scarce.

      Car accidents have nothing to do with this at all. If you knew there was small amounts of rat poison, linked to deaths, in a type of candy, would you say “oh well life is too short to worry about little poisons!”. Or would you change your perspective on what people call food in this country? Any idea at all what is going on with the small farms in this country, under the attacks of Monsanto?

      1. you are such a clown

        1. And YOU can talk? Friggin’ heck, please, do yourself a favor and go sing a song or something. Stop polluting this board with your incessant rap (with a silent c).

          Thank you. Clappity clap.

      2. Great comments, thanks for taking the time. I agree with your point of view. Much love.

  5. Everything with a grain of salt. Salt, helps preserve meat, taste and breakdown good meats and vegetables. I say that because whether the “health advocates” want to admit or not, we are omnivores. I know this drives a lot of people crazy, knowing that humans require both meat and vegetables to survive, and apparantly they would love to evolve beyond that, but it would require mutation in our basic cell structure, so, be careful what you ask from these scientists.

    Two other points, 1 the arguement that life is precious, and “killing is wrong”, as reason not to kill an animal to eat is so presumptuously wrong. Look, believe it or not, that vegetable that you are eating, was alive before you killed it. Number 2, if you really believe that all you have to do to avoid cancer is be a vegan, why not ask Linda McCartney her thought on the subject. She was a vegan her entire life, yet she died of cancer. Look, you may not want to admit it, you live on this planet and you are a carbon based animal, you are born with cancer cells. You got them from your parents, they got them from thiers, so on all the way back to where that cell/gene was mutated in our cell structure in our past history.

    Ok done, off the soap box.

  6. @ ROSS:
    As much as Science is respected, you have neglected another entity called COMMONSENSE.
    Norman is trying to say, you don’t have to become a scientist or a doctor to come to reasoned, logical conclusions.
    I see no reason why any intelligent being mocking Norman for this reasonable claim.

    It makes you look quite dumb for you to always kiss the ground where scientists’ walk on. Even scientists are humans whom sometimes ever so conveniently tweak their experiments to favour the desired outcomes of their sponsor – Big pharmaceutical and tobacco firms and many more.

  7. I’m going to die of something (as are we all). If I cut out everything that they’ve said caused cancer (some of which they have other studies that contradict), I wouldn’t have too much to eat, couldn’t use a cell or cordless phone, nor watch TV. Screw it, I’ll do what I want.

  8. Many articles worldwide states that the people of Okinawa, Japan live the longest versus any other culture in the is world. They eat lots of pork everyday with eggs and Goya ( bitter melon) along with their white rice.
    It all boils down to your DNA everyone. If you are not of Okinawan ancestry, then you are vulnerable to cancers diseases and a shortened life. Sorry, but thats the true reality of it.
    Then again, I have known of people who smoked a pack of cigarrettes a day, ate lots of canned foods and lived to be 103 or 112! It all boils down to each individuals DNA.

  9. I really wish people would stop name-calling. Great informative comments. I believe we were all brought to this page for the same reasons and should work much harder to communicate lovingly with each other, whether our opinions are the same or not. Thanks everyone, great article. <3

  10. Compared with 100 years ago, people are living longer life spans these days. Also they are eating more processed foods treated with preservatives. Obviously the preservatives are keeping people fresh longer, just like they help the food to stay fresh longer.

    1. 4000 years ago people lived until they were 900. why is that?

  11. I enjoy what you guys tend to be up too. This sort of clever work and coverage!
    Keep up the very good works guys I’ve added you guys to our blogroll.

  12. I have celiac i cant eat shit cause they poison ,our food my mom is also we didn’t find out until it was to late.she used to be a model now she cant even walk or talk causes us symptoms such as thinking improper to ibs. i am an emt in memphis. open your eyes. its bad for you but makes life impossible for us

  13. Purchase B-15 from which is the possible cure for cancer.

  14. Ya’ll don’t get it!There is a special interest group for every type of food out there that can find something wrong with that particular item that they researched.Common sense must prevail.Yes,sodium nitrate isn’t good for you,but like every thing in food out there,moderation prevails.Remember that there was research on aspartame which has been written about many times and different statements went back an forth about whether it was bad for and ok to consume.Bottom line,one hot dog every other week or a couple of slices of bacon one Sunday a month,or a slice of ham on a holiday isn’t gong to make a difference.And meat in small quantities a couple of times a week is ok as well.There are a lot of essential amino acids in lean red meat.Always eat fresh produce.

  15. I just started eating processed foods again, I had stopped for at least 30 yrs. I know people who have been eating processed foods for a lot longer and the only thing that is different is their weight, they are a little fatter, but healthy, so I find this very hard to believe.

  16. Are there any safety issues with consumption of nitrates?

    • Most of the concern about safety of nitrates has arisen from epidemiological data and the potential to form N-Nitrosoamines which are thought to be cancer causing as well as causing “blue-baby” syndrome. However, one must be careful in evaluating the data and reaching any conclusions.

    • It is important that in any scientific debate to understand the strengths and limits of epidemiological research.

    • Let us review the data for both these concerns.

    i) In the case of methemoglobinemia- one case back in the 1950’s caused considerable sensation when a baby’s hemoglobin was thought to be compromised by supposedly excessive nitrates in well water and converting the hemoglobin to a form that was not able to transport oxygen easily. However, the infant was living in a rural area and the well water had higher burden of bacterial load that was likely the culprit and not the nitrates per se.
    Additionally, there have few if any cases of methemoglobinemia. Moreover, when nitrates and/or nitrites are injected i.v. there is little or no change in the hemoglobin status. In other words there is little or no conversion of hemoglobin into methemoglobin. So nitrates causing blue-baby syndrome seems highly unlikely as a health concern.
    ii) In the case of N-Nitrosamine formation associated with consumption of “cured” meats (meat treated with nitrates/nitrites for preservation) one must review the data carefully.

    • Foods are heterogenous and complex in terms of their composition and contribution to the overall diet, ascribing an individual component of food as ‘‘good” or ‘‘bad” is fraught with difficulty due to many confounders.

    • There are other components (or confounders) that are likely to be present in the consumption of meat that unfortunately and erroneously implicate nitrates as posing a health risk?
    ) Saturated fats
    ) Pesticides
    ) Hormones
    ) Biological e.g. high bacterial loads
    ) Other harmful chemicals
    ) Toxins
    ) Cooking practices e.g. charring of food which produces known carcinogens.

    • Interpretation of epidemiological studies demands careful criteria:
    1. Strength of association i.e. magnitude of the effect
    2. Exposure must precede the disease
    3. Consistency- similar findings in many studies without contradictory results
    4. Theoretical plausibility i.e. biological/physiological/metabolic knowledge supports the findings
    5. Coherence i.e. no alternate hypotheses
    6. Specificity i.e. no confounding factors are found
    7. Dose–response i.e. higher risk with higher exposure
    8. Experimental i.e. animal and in-vitro studies show the effect.

    • Some misconceptions about interpreting such studies include:
    1. Statistical significance should not be mistaken for evidence of a substantial association.
    2. Association does not prove causation (other evidence must also be considered).
    3. Uncertainty about whether there is a causal relationship (or even an association) is not sufficient to suggest action should not be taken.

    • In the last 20 years there is accumulating evidence that nitrates are beneficial for health. These include:
    ) Mediterranean, Japanese and DASH diets are ALL very high in nitrate content. In some cases up to 20 times! All these diets are supported in the literature for their health benefits. In fact most physicians recommend such diets to their patients.
    ) Many TCM formulas for heart health are extremely high in nitrate content. In fact their high nitrate content explains their benefit. These formulas have been used for over thousands of years as proof for their safety and efficacy.
    ) Mother’s milk is very rich in nitrate content by several folds which reduces as the infant ages. If nitrates were an issue for methemoglobinemia then why does nature ensure such high concentrations?
    • Recent data from the UK, Sweden and the US supports that certain vegetables rich in nitrates like kale, spinach, bok-choy, celery and beet root have extremely high nitrate content and are beneficial when consumed. For example a typical plate of salad contains around 1200mg of nitrate which is 3-4 folds higher than allowed by WHO or Health Canada. Yet, how often has eating salads been associated with disease or health risk?
    • Other studies:

    i) Occupational exposure to very high levels of nitrate occurs in fertilizer workers, who have elevated body burdens of nitrate and elevated salivary nitrate and nitrite levels show no increased incidence of gastric cancers.
    ii) Studies in Canada, Italy, Sweden and Germany involving thousands of study subjects have failed to show an association or demonstrated an inverse association between estimated nitrate intake and gastric cancer.
    iii) In a review of 14 epidemiological studies, 13 of which were case-control studies, Blot et al. could not conclude a relationship between cured meat consumption during pregnancy and brain or any other cancers. It may be that in the limited number of epidemiological studies linking nitrate, nitrite or cured meats to a specific cancer site, other as yet
    uncharacterized dietary or environmental factors may be
    ​ involved.
    • Animal data does not support the contention that nitrates are toxic or carcinogenic! For example:
    a) In 2000, the results of a comprehensive battery of rodent carcinogenicity and mutagenicity studies by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), including a standard, 2-year chronic cancer bioassay of sodium nitrite in rats and mice, were presented to the NTP Technical Reports Review Subcommittee for evaluation. The final NTP Technical Report indicated that the only adverse finding in both rats and mice was an ‘‘equivocal evidence” finding that sodium nitrite weakly increased the number of forestomach tumors in female mice but not in male mice or male or female rats. All other organ sites in both rats and mice showed no evidence of carcinogenicity. In short, any suspicion of sodium nitrite’s carcinogenicity in rodents was not supported by this state-of-the-art cancer bioassay study. Shortly thereafter, in 2000, nitrite was also reviewed and evaluated for potential listing as a developmental and reproductive toxicant under the Proposition 65 Statute in California. A review of 99 studies on sodium nitrite led the state’s Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee of eight independent scientists to conclude that sodium nitrite should not be listed as a developmental toxicant or as a male or female reproductive toxicant under California’s Proposition 65 law.
    • Nitrate/nitrite is a reservoir for NO an important signalling molecule with a myriad of health benefits including:
    • Immunity and increasing resistance to pathogens
    • Reduction of blood pressure
    • Improvement of functioning of endothelial cells possibly the hall-mark in cardiovascular health.
    • Improvement of cardiovascular functioning in conditions of poor circulation
    • Counteracts the effects ischemic heart disease like angina
    • Improves exercise physiology of muscles i.e. has an oxygen sparing effect.
    • Effective in disease conditions where there is poor oxygen status e.g. asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), angina, chronic kidney disease and high altitude or mountain-sickness.
    • Gastric protection against H pylori and healing of inflamed mucous membranes.

    • In summary nitrates have been incorrectly projected as villains yet in reality they have key health promoting health effects.


    W.J. Blot, B.E. Henderson, J.D. Boice Jr., Childhood cancer in relation to cured meat intake: review of the epidemiological evidence, Nutr. Cancer 34 (1999) 111–118.

    H. Moller, Adverse health effects of nitrate and its metabolites:
    epidemiological studies in humans, in: P.o.t.I. Workshop, (Ed.), Health
    Aspects of Nitrates and its Metabolites (Particularly Nitrite), Council of
    Europe Press, Strasbourg Cedex, France, 1995, pp. 255–268.

    National Toxicology Program, NTP Technical Report on the toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of sodium nitrite (CAS NO. 7632-00-0)IN F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice(drinking water studies), NIH Publication No. 01-3954, 2001, pp. 7–273.

    D.L. Archer, Evidence that ingested nitrate and nitrite are beneficial to health, J. Food Prot. 65 (2002) 872–875.

    C. Duncan, H. Li, R. Dykhuizen, R. Frazer, P. Johnston, G. MacKnight, L. Smith, K. Lamza, H. McKenzie, L. Batt, D. Kelly, M. Golden, N. Benjamin, C. Leifert, Protection against oral and gastrointestinal diseases: importance of dietary nitrate intake, oral nitrate reduction and enterosalivary nitrate circulation, Comp. Biochem. Physiol. A Physiol. 118 (1997) 939–948.

    R.S. Dykhuizen, R. Frazer, C. Duncan, C.C. Smith, M. Golden, N. Benjamin, C. Leifert, Antimicrobial effect of acidified nitrite on gut pathogens: importance of dietary nitrate in host defense, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 40 (1996) 1422–1425.

    R.S. Dykhuizen, A. Fraser, H. McKenzie, M. Golden, C. Leifert, N. Benjamin, Helicobacter pylori is killed by nitrite under acidic conditions, Gut 42 (1998) 334–337.

    M. Eichholzer, F. Gutzwiller, Dietary nitrates, nitrites, and N-nitroso
    compounds and cancer risk: a review of the epidemiologic evidence, Nutr. Rev. 56 (1998) 95–105.

    N.S. Bryan, J.W. Calvert, J.W. Elrod, S. Gundewar, S.Y. Ji, D.J. Lefer, Dietary nitrite supplementation protects against myocardial ischemia–reperfusion injury, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 104 (2007) 19144–19149.

    Y. Tang, H. Garg, Y.J. Geng, N.S. Bryan, Nitric oxide bioactivity of traditional Chinese medicines used for cardiovascular indications, Free Radic. Biol. Med. 47 (2009) 835–840.

    J.O. Lundberg, E. Weitzberg, NO generation from nitrite and its role in
    vascular control, Arterioscler. Thromb. Vasc. Biol. 25 (2005) 915–922.

    J.O. Lundberg, E. Weitzberg, J.A. Cole, N. Benjamin, Nitrate, bacteria and human health, Nat. Rev. Microbiol. 2 (2004) 593–602.

    C. Dezfulian, N. Raat, S. Shiva, M.T. Gladwin, Role of the anion nitrite in
    ischemia–reperfusion cytoprotection and therapeutics, Cardiovasc. Res. 75(2007) 327–338.

  17. i grew up in the 1930’s and 1940’s and went to the store for my mother hundreds of times and the foods that
    were in the grocery stores in those days(and especially in bulk like dried beans and rice sugar and many other
    food items) were infested with bugs and the bins were dirty,however items such as fresh meat and canned foods were alright,and the dairy foods were good.
    they did not have frozen foods in those days and canned foods were limited in variety (not much canned meat or poultry) and the canned foods did not contain preserveatives as they do today. many people in those days
    raised chickens and pigs and almost everyone had vegetable gardens and there was millions of family farms
    that grew truck crops and grains so these people were self sufficent .there is not many family farms today so
    i would say that the food then was very good and it did not have all the things that are added to food these days for various reasons..

  18. As a professional in the healthcare industry, and a writer, I have two comments to make. First, in order for this article to be credible in making such broad statements, more than seven sources should have been used in its creation-from peer reviewed publications. The second point is that I believe in and align with the article’s objective, to inform the masses about the dangers inherent in processed foods. This is more like a blog post for the general public, not a news article for research critics. If people refuse to acknowledge that weird ingredients are bad for them, who cares. Let them eat all the spam they want and pray to the gods that federalized health care doesn’t make it.

  19. usa is the cancer of this planet.

  20. I heard sunlight gives you cancer. Best to avoid that as well…

  21. Hate to break it to everyone, but nitrites/nitrates have been in processed foods since the beginning of processed foods. It’s a natural occurring event in the fermentation and drying process of all sausages. The nitrites/nitrates help inhibit the growth of dangerous bacteria making the product edible. Of course your diet shouldn’t consist of sausage, bacon, and hotdogs on the regular. Anything in excess will eventually be bad for you. Yes, the meat companies are consolidating and getting bigger, but it’s not a conspiracy that they’re intentionally put in sodium nitrite to get people sick. Also, I find it funny that there was a pop up ad on this site for Cape Cod potato chips, they make their product with sea salt. Anyone in the food business will tell you that if you want to avoid putting “sodium nitrite” on your label, you replace it with “sea salt”. They are the same thing except sea salt has more impurities and are usually cooked off during processing. Yes sodium nitrite isn’t the best thing for you, but you can still enjoy all the glories of processed meats, just in moderation.

  22. I’ve long suggested that people seeking to gett a good understanding of this speciific topic spread their research acrooss many blogs ffkafdebdecc

  23. I agree! Processed meat is very harmful to your health! I would try to ban processed meat too!

  24. Living longer but with more chronic health problems earlier.

  25. sitting is the new smoking, i just read, and if you buy into the whole food nazi propaganda babble then you’d most likely be better off smoking than to ingest any sugar whatsoever. i even read today that smoking had a couple of medical benefits. i swear i did read that.
    anyway, what were we talking about? oh yeah, get off my back!

  26. Dam these comments have got me confused. ?????

  27. I every time spent my half an hour to read this weblog’s
    articles or reviews every day along with a mug of coffee.

  28. For all this while we have been taking in human flesh as beef. help us oh jah.

  29. If some one wants expert view on the topic of blogging
    after that i propose him/her to visit this web site, Keep
    up the good job.

  30. Good thing botulism isn’t dangerous.

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