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Why This Nutritionist Wants You to Stop Worrying About Nitrates and Nitrites Causing Cancer

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Why This Nutritionist Wants You to Stop Worrying About Nitrates and Nitrites Causing Cancer

Here’s the truth about these controversial preservatives used in bacon, cold cuts, and hot dogs

Look at any package of cured meats, bacon, hot dogs, or cold cuts, and you might see the words “no artificial nitrates or nitrites!” or “no added nitrates!”

Those words are the food industry’s response to a lingering idea that these preservatives are detrimental to your health.

The notion stems from a 1970’s study showing sodium nitrite causes cancer in lab rats.

The problem? The study was complete bunk, and scientists quickly discredited it.

Since then, no study has shown a link between nitrites or nitrates and cancer in humans. And the National Academy of Sciences, the American Cancer Society, and the National Research Council all agree that there’s no proof of cancer risk from consuming them.

In fact, you want nitrates and nitrites added to your food. They reduce the risk of foodborne illness, like botulism, which can otherwise be deadly.

Plus, other foods besides processed meats contain nitrites: About 93 percent of the nitrites in your diet come from vegetables, since it’s a component taken from the soil by plants. No nutritionist will ever tell you to stop eating vegetables.

“I am more concerned about consumers having a foodborne illness or eating too few vegetables than consuming too many nitrates in their diet,” says Marianne Smith-Edge, M.S., R.D., senior advisor of science and consumer insights for the International Food Information Council. “The U.S. National Toxicology Program has found no association with nitrates and cancer.”

When a meat product is labeled “no added nitrites or nitrates”—that doesn’t mean it’s preservative-free. Instead, manufacturers most often use celery juice or celery salt in their place, which is a source of sodium nitrate. Sodium nitrite can convert to nitrite when it comes in contact with your saliva.

That’s right: You’re consuming nitrates and nitrates anyway! But many companies like to slap the label on products in hopes that you’ll pay more.

As with everything in life, moderation is key. The best thing you can do for your health: Follow a well-balanced diet, and don’t eat processed meat more than a few times per week. Yes, that includes bacon.

source : MensHealth

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