I haven't done quite enough of my own research yet on this topic to have all the 'whys' and 'hows' figured out, but I'm aware enough that sodium nitrate in processed meat should be avoided. However I have read that vitamin c (and e?) help prevent nitrates from doing any harm to your body.
I eat bacon every day for breakfast, and more often than not I can't get my hands on nitrate free bacon (though I always get it free-range). I also take a 1000mg vitamin c tablet every day, and sometimes a piece of fruit just after breaky. Is this going to be enough of a defense line for me, or is it absolutely imperative that I avoid nitrates all together?
asked byRob_19 (1022)
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on September 15, 2012
at 12:44 AM
It doesn't appear to be that effective http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/28/3/685.long http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/28/3/685/T3.expansion.html
It definitely does in Mscott's in vitro experiment paper, but the deal with red meat appears to be the heme iron catalyzing the formation of the n-nitroso compounds.
One possible solution is to have calcium in the meal which chelates iron in the upper GI tract and prevents it from reacting with anything as summarized here http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/59/29/66/PDF/Corpet-meat-cancer-veg-safer-Meat-Sci-2011-Author-version-2011.pdf Check out the neat picture near the bottom for quick reference.
So with normal fresh meat I would just do calcium and maybe chlorophyll too (think a lot of greens, or maybe just a calcium pill or cheese or whatever). And then with processed meat it will need to be both vitamin c and calcium.
Some processed meats might have undesirable ingredients besides sodium nitrite, so be sure to be picky.
on September 15, 2012
at 12:20 AM
There isn't really much evidence that nitrates themselves are bad, but rather that their conversion into potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines is the potential issue. Nitrosamines are formed in curing, cooking, and digesting nitrate containing meats like bacon.
Evidence supports the inhibition of nitrosamine formation by vitamin C, but if the food isn't cured with vitamin C this inhibition will only occur in your gut.
However, I recently reevaluated my own opinion on the risks nitrosamines in cured meats on a question here on paleohacks. Looking at experimental animal evidence shows much larger doses or nitrosamines are required to cause cancer than are found in your typical cured meats. That doesn't mean there isn't a risk, but it seems overblown in my opinion.
If you are worried though, you can avoid overcooking your meat and consume some vitamin C with it. These are simple actions with very little downside and other potential benefits.