Dangers of Nitrates

By on July 3, 2021

Anyone that knows me knows I LOVE bacon.  However, back in 1981, the New York Times published an insightful article on the potential dangers of nitrates. At that time, a great deal of the data was still somewhat speculative. The one thing that had been confirmed was that the majority of processed meats had nitrates injected into them to assist in the curing process.


The initial concerns about nitrates actually began in the 1970s, and over the years, different special interest groups and research teams have raised concerns about the potential effects.

Organic Consumers warns that nitrates can be quite dangerous. In fact, the USDA has even gone so far as to try to ban it from use in the food market. But they have so far been unsuccessful in banning it.

The Purpose of Nitrates

Nitrates are used in a number of meat products. They appear in the highest concentrations in hot dogs, packaged lunch meat, bacon, and cold cuts. It’s used in the curing process for most processed and cured meats. When used in fresh meats, it is intended primarily as a coloring agent. The overall effect of nitrate injections results in the meat coming across more flavorful and appealing to consumers.

Numerous Dangers Of Nitrates

One of the biggest reasons to avoid nitrates is because of their relationship to the growth of cancerous cells. Organic Consumers warns that regular nitrate consumption can lead to colon and pancreatic cancers among others.

Further evidence indicates that nitrates can trigger respiratory distress. The nitrate is believed to irritate the respiratory tract lining. This, in turning, triggers the distress or poisons the lungs, causing an infection. It does the same thing with the stomach. Symptoms of poisoning include abdominal pains, vomiting, and nausea. In the worst cases, it has even been linked to comas.

Another problem is that nitrates can be absorbed through the skin. Even if you yourself do not eat them, you can still get the negative effects by handling meats that have them. The nitrates are absorbed directly through the skin.

Foods to Avoid

According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, the worst food for nitrate consumption is the hot dog. Three separate studies reached similar conclusions regarding the risk of children eating hotdogs. The research found that children who consumed hot dogs more than twelve times a month were nine times more likely to develop childhood leukemia. The same ratio held true when the parents consumed hot dogs regularly before the child was born.

However, nitrates can also be found in supposed health foods. Since they are used to cure meat and cheese products, you need to be particularly careful of the health foods you try. Remember that not all of them are actually good for you. You may be shocked to realize how dangerous some of these popular health foods can actually be.

The Distinction Between Naturally Occurring Nitrites

As some people may point out, a number of green vegetables like spinach, lettuce, and celery have nitrites. These are similar in chemical form to nitrates. However, the distinction between these is enormous. First, the nitrites found in fruits and vegetables are naturally occurring. Second, the nitrates found in processed foods are generally put into products with amines. These combine to form carcinogenic N nitroso compounds.

Substituting Foods Without Nitrates For Foods with Nitrates

The best way to avoid food with nitrates is to not buy meat with Nitrates. That may sound overly simplistic, but it’s important to realize the following: there are plenty of choices of meat without nitrates available.  It’s easy to spot nitrate-free bacon, nitrate-free sausage, and other meats as well.

It might cost a few extra dollars right now, but the value to your health in the future can be priceless.







“Hot Dogs and Nitrates,” Cancer Prevention Coalition, http://www.preventcancer.com/consumers/food/hotdogs.htm (2010).

About JessicaBFry

Jessica B. Fry has had a passion for writing and health since she was a child. In college, she studied Writing and Pre-Law as a double major before she went on to Regent University to obtain her J.D. She now practices law and works as a freelance writer in rural Indiana where she enjoys being with beloved family, friends, and pets. In her spare time, she works on graphology, writes short stories, and practices knife throwing. She and her husband enjoy exploring Indiana and the surrounding states in their free time and hope to one day complete a trip through every single one.

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