The Nitrite Myth: Another Reason Not To Fear Bacon

Yes, eating bacon is healthy for you. Yet some medical “experts” claim that eating bacon is unhealthy in any quantity due to the presence of nitrates and nitrites, which are used in the curing process to create bacon, so as to prevent the development of dangerous bacteria. Sure, bacon contains saturated fat, sodium, and in large quantities can be unhealthy, but the human body needs to consume some fat, at a rate of 0.5g per pound of body weight, in order to function properly. Additionally, sodium is an essential nutrient needed for efficient muscle contraction. Eating Bacon in measured quantities is perfectly safe.

The health concerns around bacon are centered on the consumption of nitrates and nitrites. Researchers and doctors from the World Health Organization back in 2015, claimed to have found a link between cancer, and the consumption of bacon, in addition to other processed meats. Steven Colbert presented a rather entertaining monologue of the W.H.O’s findings, which you can watch below. Fortunately for bacon lovers, this study was discredited after being subjected to a proper peer review.

The majority of nitrates and nitrites, which the human body is exposed to come from within the body, scientifically referred to as an endogenous source. Nitrites are produced inside the human body at a much higher rate, than what a human could consume from food. Specifically, salivary nitrite accounts for 70%-90% of total exposure. In other words, your spit has more nitrites than any food you could eat.

Comparing foods, it is scientifically documented that vegetables are much higher in nitrates than a massive amount of hotdogs for example. “When it comes to food, vegetables are the primary source of nitrites. On average, about 93% of nitrites we get from food come from vegetables. It may shock you to learn that one serving of arugula; two servings of butter lettuce, and four servings of celery or beets all have more nitrite than 467 hot dogs. (2) And your own saliva has more nitrites than all of them! So before you eliminate cured meats from your diet, you might want to address your celery intake. And try not to swallow so frequently”. Eating nitrites is important, as they contribute to an efficiently running immune system, as well as ensuring your cardiovascular system is firing on all cylinders.

Doctors are now researching how nitrites can help patients who suffer from hypertension, heart attacks, sickle cell anemia, and various other circulatory health ailments.

Further demystifying the claim that bacon and other processed meats are a significant source of nitrites, the United States Department of Agriculture mandates that hotdogs and bacon contain only contain a maximum of 120 parts per million of nitrites. Examining the curing process for bacon and hotdogs, “during the curing process, most of the nitrite forms nitric oxide, which binds to iron and gives hot dogs and bacon their characteristic pink color”.

The human body is great at filtering its self out, given that your kidneys and liver are functioning properly. Within about five hours of eating nitrites, whether they come from hotdogs, bacon, or vegetables, 25% of the nitrites are converted into the same stuff found in your spit, about 20% is converted from food form to ingested form, and the rest is sent on its way when you urinate.

“In general, the bulk of the science suggests that nitrates and nitrites are not problematic and may even be beneficial to health. Critical reviews of the original evidence suggesting that nitrates/nitrites are carcinogenic reveals that in the absence of co-administration of a carcinogenic nitrosamine precursor, there is no evidence for carcinogenesis. (7) Newly published prospective studies show no association between estimated intake of nitrite and nitrite in the diet and stomach cancer. (8) Nitric oxide, formed by nitrite, has been shown to have vasodilator properties and may modulate platelet function in the human body, improving blood pressure and reducing heart attack risk. (91011) Nitrates may also help boost the immune system and protect against pathogenic bacteria (121314).”

Consuming bacon in measured and responsible quantities can help with various functions in the human body, including your blood pressure. Understand though, a pound of bacon a day will not keep the doctor away. Like most things in life, too much of anything can be harmful.

H/T [, Chicago Tribune,]


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