New Bacon and Sausage Health Warning: Preservatives in cured meats may increase risk of type 2 diabetes by over 50%, study finds
- The researchers accessed data collected from over 100,000 people in France
- Participants self-reported their medical history and diet for the seven-year study
- However, other experts have raised concerns about the recent findings
Preservatives in cured meats could increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by more than half, a study finds.
Researchers say they’ve found a link between nitrites – used to add color and flavor to meats like sausages and bacon – and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The team accessed data collected from more than 100,000 people in France who had been tracked since 2009.
Researchers say they’ve found a link between nitrites – used to add color and flavor to meats like sausages and bacon – and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Participants volunteered and self-reported their medical history, diet, lifestyle, and important health updates and were followed for approximately seven years.
What are nitrites? And how are they different from nitrates?
Nitrites and nitrates are commonly used in curing meat and other perishable products.
They are also added to meat to keep it red and add flavor.
Nitrates also occur naturally in vegetables, with the highest levels found in leafy greens like spinach and lettuce.
It can also enter the food chain as an aquatic environmental pollutant due to its use in intensive agriculture, animal husbandry and sanitation.
Nitrites in food (and nitrate, which is converted to nitrite in the body) can contribute to the formation of a group of compounds known as nitrosamines, some of which are carcinogenic, meaning they have the potential to cause cancer.
In 2015, the World Health Organization warned of a significant increase in colon cancer risk from eating processed meats like bacon, which traditionally have nitrites added during curing.
According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the currently acceptable daily dose for nitrates is 3.7 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day.
The EFSA acceptable daily allowance for nitrites is 0.07 mg per kilogram of body weight per day.
The analysis suggests that those who had the highest dietary nitrite intake had a 27 percent increased risk of developing the reversible condition.
The scientists also discovered that people with the highest intakes of sodium nitrite — the key additive responsible for the distinctive color and flavor of cured meats — had a 53 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
lead author dr Bernard Srour, from Sorbonne Paris Nord University, said: “These results provide new evidence in the context of current discussions about the need for the food industry to reduce the use of nitrite additives in processed meat.
“Meanwhile, several health authorities around the world are already recommending that citizens limit their consumption of foods with controversial additives, including sodium nitrite.”
The amount of nitrites the people in the study consumed from food additives averaged 0.51 mg per day.
The group that consumed the most nitrites averaged 0.62 mg per day.
According to previous studies, a slice of bacon contains around 0.25 mg of nitrites.
About one in 12 adults in the UK and US has type 2 diabetes, and 90 per cent of these are overweight or obese.
Previous studies have shown that eating lots of red and especially processed meat is associated with a higher risk of obesity-related disease.
However, other experts have raised concerns about the recent evidence and assessment of food additive intake.
They also warned that nitrites from food additives account for only about 4 to 6 percent of total nitrite intake, with the rest coming from other sources like drinking water.
Tom Sanders, Professor Emeritus of Nutrition and Dietetics at King’s College London, said: “The estimates were based on memories of eating on two separate occasions at baseline, with no further estimates over the seven-year follow-up period.
‘Researchers had to guess which foods contain the various nitrite additives, what amounts are used in the products, and what amounts of the foods are consumed.’
dr Duane Mellor, a Registered Dietitian and Lecturer at Aston University, said: “Given the significance of this data, it is perhaps worth noting that the use of nitrites as an additive is often referred to as sodium nitrite, which is used in curing meats such as Bacon, which would be something someone trying to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes would encourage people to eat less of.
“The best way to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is to be physically active, maintain a healthy weight and eat a varied diet based on vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and fruits and whole grains, and a moderate intake of dairy products and meat – particularly processed meat.”
The results were published in the journal Plos Medicine.