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Health warning for bacon and sausage sarnies

Health warning for bacon and sausage sarnies

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New health warning on bacon and sausage rolls: Preservatives in cured meats may increase risk of type 2 diabetes by more than 50%, study shows

  • The researchers accessed data collected from over 100,000 people in France
  • Participants self-reported medical history and diet for the seven-year study
  • However, other experts expressed concern about the latest findings

Preservatives in cured meats may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by more than half, according to a survey.

Researchers say they have found a link between nitrites – used to add color and flavor to meats such as sausages and bacon – and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

The team accessed data collected from more than 100,000 people in France which have been tracked since 2009.

Researchers say they have found a link between nitrites – used to add color and flavor to meats such as sausages and bacon – and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes

Participants voluntarily enrolled and self-reported their medical history, diet, lifestyle, and major health changes and were followed for approximately seven years.

What are nitrites? And how do they differ from nitrates?

Nitrites and nitrates are commonly used to preserve meat and other perishables.

They are also added to meat to redden it and add flavor.

Nitrates are also found naturally in vegetables, with the highest concentrations found in leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce.

It can also enter the food chain as an environmental contaminant in water due to its use in intensive agricultural methods, animal husbandry and sewage disposal.

Nitrites in food (and nitrates converted to nitrites in the body) can contribute to the formation of a group of compounds known as nitrosamines, some of which are carcinogenic – ie. have the potential to cause cancer.

In 2015, the World Health Organization warned that there was a significant increase in the risk of bowel cancer when consuming processed meats such as bacon, to which nitrites are traditionally added while curing.

The current acceptable daily intake of nitrates, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), is 3.7 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day.

The EFSA acceptable daily intake of nitrites is 0.07 mg per kilogram of body weight each day.

source: EFSA

The analysis showed that those who had the highest total dietary intake of nitrites had a 27% increased risk of developing the reversible condition.

The scientists also found that people with the highest intake of sodium nitrite – the most important additive responsible for the characteristic color and taste associated with cured meats – had a 53% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Lead author Dr Bernard Srour, from Sorbonne University Paris Nord, said: “These results provide new evidence in the context of current discussions on the need to reduce the use of nitrite additives in processed meat by the food industry.

“Meanwhile, several public health authorities around the world are now recommending that citizens limit their consumption of foods containing controversial additives, including sodium nitrite.”

The amount of nitrites people consumed from the dietary supplements in the study averaged 0.51 mg per day.

The group consuming the most nitrites averaged 0.62 mg per day.

One slice of bacon contains about 0.25 mg of nitrites, according to previous research.

Around one in 12 adults in the UK and US have type 2 diabetes and of these, 90 per cent are overweight or obese.

Previous studies have shown that eating a lot of red and especially processed meat is associated with a greater risk of an obesity-related condition.

However, other experts expressed concern about the latest findings and how dietary supplement intake was assessed.

They also cautioned that nitrite from dietary supplements contributes only about 4 to 6 percent of total nitrite intake, with the rest coming from other sources, such as drinking water.

Tom Sanders, emeritus professor of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London, said: “The estimates were based on recalls of dietary intake on two separate occasions at the start of the study, with no further assessments in the follow-up period of over seven years.

“The researchers had to guess which foods contained the various nitrite additives, the levels used in the products, and the amounts of the food consumed.”

Dr Dwayne Mellor, registered dietitian and senior lecturer at Aston University, said: “When looking at the significance of this data, it may be worth noting that the use of nitrites as a supplement is often like sodium nitrite, which is used for drying of meats like bacon, which, if one were looking to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, would be something people would be encouraged 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 for you and eat a varied diet based on vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and fruit, along with whole grains and moderate intake of dairy foods and meat – especially processed meat.”

The findings are published in the journal Plos Medicine.


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