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Nutrition and Nitration

Do not feed your children ham sandwiches, warn cancer experts - Scotsman.com News

Processed meats are usually manufactured using sodium nitrite, a colour fixer which is carcinogenic...People should increase the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables they eat...

You can't have it both ways, vegetables are also stuffed full of nitrites. As the ever indispensable Sandy says:

70% (in UK) to over 97% (New Zealand) of human consumption of nitrates and nitrites comes from vegetables alone, regardless of organic or conventionally grown. On average, about 93% of the nitrites we get each day comes from the nitrates in vegetables.

(Do read the whole of her article)

Her conclusion is: Many studies implicating nitrite and nitrate in cancer are based on very weak epidemiological data. If nitrite and nitrate were harmful to us, then we would not be advised to eat green leafy vegetables or swallow our own saliva, which is enriched in nitrate. There’s still plenty of summertime left and lots of regional hotdog specialties and BLTs left to enjoy, along with those garden vegies. With a little more science under our belts, hopefully everyone can enjoy it all with a lot less worry.

(An old Nature paper is also interesting:

Nitrates, nitrites and gastric cancer in Great Britain - David Forman, Samim Al-Dabbagh & Richard Doll

The authors are at the Epidemiology and Clinical Trials Unit of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Gibson Building, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford OX2 GHE, UK.
Nitrate and nitrite were measured in the saliva of two populations who differed in their risk of developing gastric cancer. Surprisingly, the levels of both ions were significantly higher in the low-risk group.


Sandy of Junkfood Science is a woefully under-rated source of commonsense.
But, fortunately, not by you, Sir.

Five Live interviewed someone who was involved in producing that report. Managed a brilliant juxtaposition of two kinds of risk measurement.
Something like: "Eating processed meat increases your risk of cancer by 20%. As a comparision, smoking increasing your risk of cancer by 20-40 times."
No mention, of course, of the actual level of risk - numbers per thousand, etc.
But levelling up the risk measurements, she should have said that smoking increased risk by 2000 - 4000 percent, and in other words there is no comparison whatsoever between the risk.
Maybe she misspoke - but then, she should know her subject.

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