Do Nitrates Increase the Chance of Death?

A group of Rhode Island researchers, led by Suzanne de la Monte, MD, MPH, studied typical old age diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and found that exposure to nitrates may increase deaths from these diseases. The study was extensive, and began with a 37-year study of mortality for people aged 75 to 84 years old, studying not only these diseases, but also cerebrovascular and cardiovascular diseases. The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. At first they suspected a genetic cause, but after a dramatic increase in diabetes and two other insulin resistant diseases, they started looking at possible environmental causes. They found that nitrates and nitrites had increased over the same 37-year period as additives in preserved foods, processed foods, pesticides, cosmetics, rubber products and fertilizers, and deduced that exposure to these toxic substances may be at fault. Diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and cerebrovascular diseases actually decreased over the same 37-year period. Nitrites and nitrates are carcinogenic at high levels, and heat from frying and cooking can turn sodium nitrate into nitrosamines. Nitrosamines cause damage to DNA by altering gene expression. The researchers believe this damage causes the cells to change in the same way cells change during diabetes and aging. The researchers believe that the high amount of nitrates and nitrates found in foods such as cheese, cured meats, beer, and fried bacon, is contributing to the development of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. To help cut back on this potential health issue, they recommend cutting nitrates and nitrites out of one’s diet, and also in agriculture processes and the use of these toxins in other items, such as fertilizers and cosmetics. They also recommend finding a way to prevent nitrosamine formation when cooking these compounds, since this reaction to heat seems to be the cause of DNA damage.