Beyond just being loaded with “artery-clogging saturated fat” and sodium, bacon has been long considered unhealthy due to the use of nitrates and nitrites in the curing process. Many conventional doctors, and well-meaning friends and relatives, will say you’re basically asking for a heart attack or cancer by eating the food many Paleo enthusiasts lovingly refer to as “meat candy”.
The belief that nitrates and nitrates cause serious health problems has been entrenched in popular consciousness and media. Watch this video clip to see Steven Colbert explain how the coming bacon shortage will prolong our lives thanks to reduced nitrates in our diets.
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In fact, the study that originally connected nitrates with cancer risk and caused the scare in the first place has since been discredited after being subjected to a peer review. There have been major reviews of the scientific literature that found no link between nitrates or nitrites and human cancers, or even evidence to suggest that they may be carcinogenic. Further, recent research suggests that nitrates and nitrites may not only be harmless, they may be beneficial, especially for immunity and heart health. Confused yet? Let’s explore this issue further.
Find out why you shouldn’t be concerned about nitrates & nitrites in bacon.
Where Does Nitrate/Nitrite Exposure Come From?
It may surprise you to learn that the vast majority of nitrate/nitrite exposure comes not from food, but from endogenous sources within the body. (1)
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.
All humor aside, there’s no reason to fear nitrites in your food, or saliva. Recent evidence suggests that nitrites are beneficial for immune and cardiovascular function; they are being studied as a potential treatment for hypertension, heart attacks, sickle cell and circulatory disorders. Even if nitrites were harmful, cured meats are not a significant source, as the USDA only allows 120 parts per million in hot dogs and bacon. Also, 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. Afterwards, the amount of nitrite left is only about 10 parts per million.
And if you think you can avoid nitrates and nitrites by eating so-called “nitrite- and nitrate-free” hot dogs and bacon, don’t be fooled. These products use “natural” sources of the same chemical like celery and beet juice and sea salt, and are no more free from nitrates and nitrites than standard cured meats. In fact, they may even contain more nitrates and nitrites when cured using “natural” preservatives.
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What Happens When You Eat Nitrates and Nitrites
It’s important to understand that neither nitrate nor nitrite accumulate in body. Ingested nitrate from food is converted into nitrite when it contacts our saliva, and of the nitrate we eat, 25% is converted into salivary nitrite, 20% converted into nitrite, and the rest is excreted in the urine within 5 hours of ingestion. (3) Any nitrate that is absorbed has a very short half-life, disappearing from our blood in under five minutes. (4) Some nitrite in our stomach reacts with gastric contents, forming nitric oxide which may have many beneficial effects. (5, 6) You can listen to my podcast “Does Red Meat Increase Your Risk of Death?” for more information on this topic.
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. (9, 10, 11) Nitrates may also help boost the immune system and protect against pathogenic bacteria (12, 13, 14)
So what do we take from this? There’s no reason to fear nitrates and nitrites in food. No reason to buy nitrate-free, uncured bacon. No reason to strictly avoid cured meats, particularly those from high quality sources (though it may make sense to limit consumption of them for other reasons). In fact, because of concerns about trichinosis from pork, it makes a lot more sense in my opinion to buy cured bacon and other pork products. I do.
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Chris, I appreciate your accurate and up to date information about the Nitrate/Nitrite issue and I support your findings based on my independent research. People who eat a lot of processed foods, and are obese on top of that, get huge amounts of exposure to GMO’s and carcinogenic additives. Did the Hawaii study account for this? Unfortunately people are easily influenced by the incorrect information and it takes decades to counter the false studies and educate people.
Eat real food, avoid GMO, read and research the ingredients.
How much Glyphosate have you consumed lately?
Sodium Nitrate/Nitrite cured meats are good for you! It’s the other additives you need to watch!
This may be anecdotal, but from personal experience whenever I eat any kind of meat with sodium nitrate I get massive gout attacks.
Eating fresh non-preserved meat is fine, no reaction, but when I eat meat that’s been bathed/infused with sodium nitrate i.e. hotdogs, bacon, lunch-meat, my body reacts violently to it.
There seems to be a misconception about sodium nitrate. In reference to food, “nitrate” really means sodium nitrate, but should really refer to sodium nitrite. While these are two completely different chemical compounds, they are often used interchangeably by those outside of the science realm.
Sodium nitrate is a type of salt, naturally found in Chile and Peru. It can also be created in a lab. Sodium nitrite is also a type of salt, but is not found naturally and is created in a lab or as a byproduct of two other chemical reactions (i.e. when sodium nitrate is added to food and reacts with existing chemicals). Since sodium nitrate is most often added as a preservative (and then breaks down into sodium nitrite), research efforts are concentrated on the latter.
At the surface level, sodium nitrite seemed to be a miracle preservative. Even today, it is sold as a food additive, although it is dyed bright pink to prevent consumers mistaking it for salt.
Is there concern for mistaking sodium nitrite for salt? Given that sodium nitrite is toxic in large quantities, yes. Research indicates that the toxic level of sodium nitrite for a 143lb person is 71 mg/kg… meaning consumption of this amount would result in death.
However, sodium nitrite occurs naturally in most of the vegetables we consume. For example, curly kale has been clocked in at 302 mg/kg and green cauliflower at 61 mg/kg. Most vegetables fall somewhere between 1.1 and 57 mg/kg.
Does this mean we can die from consuming large amounts of fresh vegetables?
No. The concern for poisoning from nitrites is not a concern in regards to vegetables. In fact, our bodies produce sodium nitrite in the digestive process. Vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals that inhibit the production of nitrosamines, the carcinogenic chemical that sodium nitrite creates when it is charred or overcooked.
So what are you trying to say here? Nitrites are bad or good, or a bit of both?
I’m kinda lost with the message you’re trying to send
I think most of what he/she said was from this page –
or some other page on nitrates
Your math is massively off.
If the ld/50 is 71mg/kg in humans, that means that an 143 pound person (~65kg) would have an ld/50 of 4.6 grams of nitrite. However, that’s NOT the ld/50 in humans. It’s much lower, at 29.2mg/kg. That makes the ld/50 1.9 grams in an 143 pound person.
They’d “only” have to eat 6.3 pounds of curly kale to have a 50/50 shot of dying. (That’s a lot of kale!)
(There is about 5mg of sodium nitrite in a pound of bacon that’s been cooked, so they’d have to consume 379 pounds to reach the ld/50.)
im so confused!!! theres so much to learn, and I need like 1000 hours in a day to read all this stuff.
im glad I stumbled on this site though, he brings up good points the other sites (like mercola) don’t even mention.
If im not extremely methodical about this nitrate info, every time I pass by the sausage im gonna just stand there and look stupid
Very funny-I spend half my time in the grocery store reading long lists of ingredients and wondering- “what in the world?”
The author has failed in this article. The nitrate produced by celery is different than the processed nitrate that gets put in cured meats. Your liver has a lot easier time processing celery nitrate than cured meat nitrate. So that argument is moot…
Well, you certainly fail to explain how (in your opinion) the added nitrate salt to for curing is different from the natural occurring ! Nitrate/ NO3‾ in my book has the same molecular structure regardless the source, but I welcome you to convince me otherwise if you have some relevant information I’m don’t know of !
chemophobia running amok. LOL
Zazadance is correct re: the type of nitrite in celery/veges vs cured meats.
Pls comment on nutritionfacts.org video’s claim that fat + cured meat + vit C is carcinogenic unlike eating nitrate rich greens.
Chris – would you please comment on the new WHO guidelines to limit processed meats?
I would love a Chris Kresser analysis of their recommendations.
After reviewing multiple large scale studies with large patient samples (populations) they determined that eating large amounts of processed meats (which contain nitrates and nitrites) increase the risk of colon cancer
Actual science says otherwise:
Did you actually read what you found? The first article found a link between fresh red meat and processed to cancer. That in itself showed Sodium Nitrate has nothing to do with it as it would not be added in fresh red meat. The second link is unviewable so I have no clue what it proves. But they don’t prove Chile Saltpeter cause anything.
I think he probably read both studies thoroughly. The connection between fresh red meat and colorectal cancer is (according to the first article) due to the higher concentration of heme, and it’s role as a nitrosating agent. As far as the whole nitrate vs. nitrite issue goes, when considered from a pharmacological standpoint, they are somewhat interchangeable as approx. 10% of nitrate (either consumed or endogenously produced), is converted to nitrite. The study is looking at the big picture, where the higher prevalence of cancer is not due to a single substance, but due to the complex interactions of many substances from many sources, and “Chile Saltpeter” or Sodium Nitrate, is one potential source.
I cannot “buy into” the first study you linked to because the study(ies) were based on consumption of both red meat AND processed meat, and I assume they were meats fed GMO grains rather than free range grasses as well as given antibiotics and possibly growth hormones, etc. This isn’t convincing since I, for one, do not eat processed meats and I try to stick with the grass fed, hormone/antibiotic free meats. As for the link to the Lancet journal, unless you want to pay $31.50 to see the article, there was nothing to be gained by visiting that link at all.
You have not changed my mind. I avoid anything synthetic whether it is nitrites or hormones or ascorbic acid.
Big food industry bosses are NEVER going to admit that what they are doing is wrong, (factory farming with antibiotics and covering rancid meat in antimicrobials for example) or harmful to human health are they? Doesn’t mean it isn’t!
I can taste the nitrates. It leaves a harsh dry feeling in my mouth. Since nitrates are water soluble I soak the bacon in filtered water. Then the bacon should be cooked right away because it no longer has a preservative in it.
do you seriously believe the water you soak your bacon in is penetrating the meat and removing all the nitrates/nitrites? sounds like some serious folk science to me.
most people who brine meat always wash the excess salt off there products. Rinsing bacon would reduce the contents because it is so thin.
If the theory of washing it way is true than go soak a fully brined corned beef brisket in water for a couple of days than cook it if that meat turns brown all the way than you presumed theory is valid but I doubt it lol that sucker will be pink no mater how long u soak it
I do not believe anything written in your article because you missed the most important fact. Cancerous substances form after you fry the bacon. There is not reason to have nitrates in any food. The nitrates in our bodies are form naturally. We are not frying our bodies. Maybe you need to expand your research. M R Wittrock
I don’t think anyone is arguing that nitrosamines aren’t potentially bad. This article makes a simple point to show that processed meat isn’t the largest source of nitrites.. FACT! Having said that though, even if bacon is bad for you, i’d rather be taken out by bacon than by a shark, a prius, stray golfball…. you get the idea.
I’d rather not very awful than eat bacon and ham. That’s saying a lot considering how much I love cured meats.
Just because some of you have are tolerant of Sodium nitrite doesn’t mean everyone is the same way. It may very well be safe for the majority of people. However, when I eat any cured meats, I have an allergic reaction. I get hives, itchy skin, increased gas production which includes belching up bile, and swelling. I had been dealing with chronic inflammation and tendinitis for 5 years. It took me a while to put two and two together. My face had become so swollen over time that I could not breathe through my nose at night. My throat was so swollen that I had difficulty swallowing and couldn’t take deep breathes. I developed lymphocytic colitis as determined by colonoscopy. My skin was all broke out all the time. My hands became so dry that the were cracked and I would get hangnails on every finger at all times. My eyes were very red and in constant pain because my face was so swollen. Once I stopped eating cured meats, everything went away. So don’t you dare say that my health problems were not due to Sodium nitrite!
The author of this article has not given any explanation for your health problems, Aaron. He was stating that the presence of nitrates and nitrites in cured meats are not a cause for alarm. Also, if you have an allergy to cured meats, that does not mean your reaction is due to the nitrate or nitrite content within them. You should see an allergy specialist and get to the bottom of your reactions, rather than assuming things without proof.
I have seen an allergy specialist. Everything came back negative, but they do not test for Sodium nitrite. He told me to do an elimination diet. The culprit is cured meats. I have no reaction with pork chops, steak, hamburger, chicken, or brats. It’s Sodium nitrite. And despite what you say about not making assumptions, there is no test for it. Why do you think Europe has a much lower limit of Sodium nitrite that is allowed in food as compared to the US?
“In general, the bulk of the science suggests that nitrates and nitrites are not problematic and may even be beneficial to health.” The author says multiple times throughout the article that Sodium nitrite is harmless.
Aaron is right. I have mast cell activation disorder, and the symptoms Aaron has described are consistent with an angioedemic histamine reaction. Sodium Nitrate is indeed the culprit. Naturally occurring nitrates haven’t been messed with in a lab, and celery, beets, etc do not cause this. Before all of you tout the wonders of cured meat, learn a little science. Aged/cured meats and cheeses can both cause this reaction, among other things. Aaron, to learn more, pick up a copy of Dr. Janice Vickerstaff Joneja’s food allergy and intolerance book. Will help you more than this blog post, which was clearly written by Smithfield….
Aged meats and fish can cause mast cell reactions in those prone to such reactions because the longer meat ages, the more histamine builds up. For those with a histamine intolerance, fresh is best. I do not believe that the sodium nitrate likely has anything to do with those hive reactions, but the increased histamines in the aged meat would. I have to limit processed meats for that reason.
What I have is a chemical sensitivity and not a true allergy. I’ve never heard of bacon and ham being considered aged meats. I guess Histamine intolerance is possible if the Sodium nitrite is causing an increased level of Histamine, but that would still leave me sensitive to foods that use Sodium nitrite.
look up “amines”, and then you can see that the chem combinations matter…and heat.
OK, so you have an allergic reaction. Does that mean the entire world should recoil in horror and we should extrapolate your anecdotal experiences into some generalization about the populace as a whole, therefore leading to some blanket prohibition against cured meats?
Sorry you have the allergy, but what purpose does your personal experience have in obviating the author’s points?
That you have allergic reactions to nitrates and that they’re not carcinogenic for the overwhelming majority of humankind are not mutually exclusive.
Bert, I could not care less if people eat cured meat or not. The author claims several times that Nitrates are harmless and there is no need to worry about them. That claim is wrong. Many people, like myself, have negative reactions to Nitrates.
“Does that mean the entire world should recoil in horror and we should extrapolate your anecdotal experiences into some generalization about the populace as a whole, therefore leading to some blanket prohibition against cured meats?” Well I’ll sort through the sensationalism and sarcasm of that post. Should the world recoil in horror over my story? Lol seriously? Do I think there should be a blanket prohibition against cured meats? Lol again. Um no. I really don’t care what other people eat, but I don’t like it when people are mislead like the author does in this article.
“Sorry you have the allergy, but what purpose does your personal experience have in obviating the author’s points?” Well thank you for your obviously sincere sympathy, but obviously my point is to show that Nitrates are not harmless as the author so simply puts it.
I suggest you read past the third paragraph of the article and not be so arrogant and condescending in your future replies.
So by your argument, nothing in the entire world, EVER, can be called “harmless” because someone, somewhere, might be allergic to it. Strawberries, spinach, the Sunday paper … whatever it is, there is the potential for someone to be allergic, so it can never be referred to as “harmless.”
Hey, guess what? I’m allergic to pollen. So clearly, pollen is deadly, and everyone must run around in circles panicking about pollen because it happens to give me trouble!
In conclusion, your logic is bad, and you should feel bad.
Obviously if something causes problems, it is inherently harmful to some people. Nice exaggeration about running around in a panic. That is the precise definition of an absurd argument.
You can blame your symptoms on histamine decarboxylase
Autocorrupt got me,
I read the article/blog post and many comments: Clearly no one is advocating a diet consisting solely of bacon or hot dogs. The question is whether one should entirely avoid bacon or hot dogs based on the nitrate/nitrite “issue.” The research and reasoning says apparently not.
The idea that bacon/hot dogs are not grossly harmful is based on the idea that the body produces such chemicals itself, and that many “healthy” foods (vegetables…) contain the same compounds in greater concentrations. Further, although there may be some correlation between eating bacon/hot dogs and stomach cancer, that cannot prove causation. particularly when we know the various parts of the specific foods themselves (saturated fat, nitrates etc., and protein) are not harmful to people.
As I understand stomach cancer, it frequently relates to Heliobacter pyloris, (sp?) and not foods consumed. Thus stomach cancer causation is most likely a confused muddle.
However, there are issues with such delicious foods, which relate to what one might describe as “eating too much.” Although I do not believe that all calories are equal, excessive consumption of calories is an issue, as is continual food digestion from continual eating. There is also a problem with the idea that certain foods are “magical” in one sense, so that eating them will make you better, and in the other, that certain other foods are harmful, and will kill you.
However, margarine is not a human food, and the same could be said of soy oil and products made with it. And “vegetable” and corn oils, too. PUFAs in general…
Animal meat and organs and root vegetables and leaves, frequently cooked, are human foods. Fruit is a human food, but not fruit juice. Food is not generally made in a factory.
My current view is that many so-called health issues are related to a common theme- Insulin. It’s not that insulin is evil, but that continual excess bodily production of insulin is damaging, and that periodic fasting is necessary, regardless of what food is generally consumed. People were not meant to be so blessed with unlimited and continual supplies of delicious food. Sad but apparently true.
If you are interested in this, check out Dr. Fung’s site Intensive Dietary Management, and his many posts on fasting. Dr. Fung is a practicing physician and Nephrologist from Canada. His focus is on the problem of continual eating which leads to constant bodily production of insulin, leading to obesity and T2 Diabetes. He has done the research and provides a great deal of information.
Here is evidence to the contrary showing a link between nitrates and cancer…
You can’t site evidence that was published in 2007. Fortunately we live in an era of shared information, so we can and should only use the most recent peer reviewed information.
Well, Chris, looks like the WHO has responded to your request for recent peer reviewed information.
This article is the game changer, Chris.
[ To your reputation – i.e. It’s a HUGE let down ]
Sorry to say i’m going to stop reading your articles.
That article is not convincing at all. First of all, they say they “replicate the conditions of the proximal stomach,” but they didn’t elaborate on how they replicated it. Then they say they added ascorbic acid, which is a synthetic, lab produced vitamin Cand poor substitute for other forms. Finally, they say they added fat, but they don’t mention what kind of fat they add. Maybe it was a vegetable oil. I found all kinds of “problems” with being convinced that it was a valid study that would that I could believe or have any faith in.
Firstly, I m morbidly obese. My diet use to consists of bacon and other cured meats. I have since in past 6 months changed my diet by substituting cured meats with real meat. I do not count calories. I eat as much as I want. I do not do much exercise at all. I have lost 15kgs in the 6 months. I have not suffered from IBS nor gout in the past 3 months. My blood pressure have gone from hypertension to normal. Thus from my own experience bacon and cured meats have been the cause of my health problems
It sounds to me that you made other diet changes at the same time and that cured meats wouldn’t be the reason you lost weight. Why would they be, unless you were eating a very large amount of them?
You want us to believe that you lost 15 kg of body weight simply by cutting out cured meats and replacing them with red meat?
Why don’t you tell the truth — that in addition to cutting out the cured meats, you also severely restricted your intake of dietary glucose by cutting way back on the amount of carbohydrate you eat, especially the starchy stuff?
There’s absolutely no link between cured meats and obesity. However, the link between carbs and body fat can no longer be seriously disputed; cutting carbs way back lowers blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and reduces body fat.
You lost the weight because you quit eating bread and pasta and products made from cereal grasses.
This is NOT convincing. In fact, you focused solely on nitrates/nitrites in the body and the “harm” they do, and not on the products formed by them when they come into contact with meat, and those products are nitrosamines, which are the REAL carcinogens.
Are you being clever, clueless, or stupid?
Nitrates/Nitrites are fine for humans, nitrosamines are not.
Now, I’m wondering about your credentials and what makes you think you had any authority, or possessed such a superior knowledge about this subject to go write an article and give public advice about it?
so….you you cant eat vegtebal that conteins nitrites with meat or ather sorce of proteine
You’re mostly right here, and I totally agree with most of what you say, but nitrosamines aren’t created by contact with meat, they are created by heating nitrites and nitrates to high temperatures, such as when pan-frying bacon.
Hate to be that guy but we have to present the correct facts if we are calling someone out for not doing just that
There is so much confusion in fully understanding the complexities of the human body. So many naive comments regarding the synthetic additives are identical or possess the same nutritional value as found in natural state. This is the demise of our civilization to even consider this fallacy and even worst to trust the FDA for allowing certain preservatives which the general public deem acceptable since they’re actively used…. I wonder why the rest of world condemns certain preservatives yet we still use in our products…. Possibly, corporations influencing the safety net?! Absolutely!!!!!
Agree….. this guy is a walking propaganda machine further confusing an already lost society.
No, you haven’t convinced me. If our vegetables and our saliva contain or produce MORE Nitrates than found in bacon, then why don’t people have migraines who are sensitive to Sodium Nitrate, have CONSTANT headaches?
Cancer Research Center of Hawaii and the University of Southern California suggests a link between eating processed meats and cancer risk.
There has long been an agenda to pretend meat causes heart disease and cancer. It’s just not true. There’s such a thing as bogus science, you know.
An article from Chris Kresser that addresses this problem, titled “Behind the Veil: Conflicts of Interest and Fraud in Medical Research” – http://chriskresser.com/behind-the-veil-conflicts-of-interest-and-fraud-in-medical-research/
And an article from another source (because people are leaving comments claiming that Chris Kresser is spreading disinfo, which only those suckered by mainstream propaganda and unable to look into issues for themselves would ever conclude) – http://www.drugawareness.org/editor-of-lancet-medical-research-is-unreliable-at-best-or-completely-fraudulent/
These articles represent just the tiniest tip of the iceberg. The corruption is astounding, and it’s sad that people tend to immediately trust and defend mainstream authorities and “science.”
The issue isn’t nitrates or nitrites, but rather the reaction between NaNO2 and HCl with amines. In organic chemistry, we learned that amines reacted with NaNO2 (home of the nitrite ion and present in bacon thanks to the curing process) form N-nitrosamines which are carcinogenic products.
Where does the HCl come into play? Well, that’s in your stomach. This is why nitrites are considered harmless; because they are when they go unreacted. This is a real danger and this article does not dive into any real science at all.
A in Organic Chemistry
You joking? you are really Organic Chemistry Student? look at water which contain the higher source of nitrosamines in human diet. Going your logic you get cancer from drinking water
“Going your logic…”
Going your logic? I’d take your comment more seriously if you could write a simple sentence.
Not all are Americans or maybe he lost word?,on the other hand if you have problem with understanding such sentence, maybe you have problem?.
Ha! For the win. Excellent response.
Maybe English is his second language. Why is it necessary to be rude just to take a contrarian point of view? Not everyone who communicates in English, particularly on the Internet, has perfect grammar or word usage. Discounting a point based on delivery instead of content is not constructive dialogue.
I have to agree. I learned during my last masters degree that it is disrespectful to insult another person because they may use English as a second or even third language. I know that this is off subject but it is true.
Only someone receiving dividends from the pork industry would post such an irresponsible article with such certainty. An educated individual would inform themselves on the huge costs associated with raising pigs for food- ethically and environmentally. Aside from the fact that almost all other science condemns pork as one of the worst things you can put in the human body. Good grief, what a blatant paid advertisement this is.
It just amazes me time and time again how its is possible that there are still people left in Europe and Asia. Still alive and well after thousands of years of pork consumption. Preserved meats are around since ancient times and even the early settlers into the Americas came on a strictly pork based diet. Without pork there wouldn’t be a USA. Try this one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curing_(food_preservation)
The article concerns the safety of cured meat — not whether or not we should be eating meat. Vegetarians do live short lives. Jesus ate meat, cooked fish and offered it to his disciples after he was resurrected. Half of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen, and he never told them to get another profession — other than ‘come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’
Vegetarians live longer than omnivores; that’s pretty well documented; not sure if your Google has stopped working.. Why has Jesus been dragged into the conversation about bacon?
That herbivores live longer than omnivores — even if true — is irrelevant. Humans aren’t designed to be exclusively herbivorous; we exhibit physiological characteristics and dentition consistent with omnivores, not herbivores.
Fact: Human beings need protein and fat in order to survive, and our bodies are particularly well adapted to process animal proteins and fats. It’s an accident of evolution. We can get along quite nicely without carbohydrate, thank you very much. The Inuit eat caribou almost exclusively, a red meat which is 75% saturated fat. They have some of the best blood chemistry on the planet. If the Ancel Keys-inspired junk science were remotely true, the Inuit would be dropping dead at 23, instead of living as long as the northern Mediterraneans.
Fact: Herbivores must seek protein sources that are, relative to the human digestive system, inferior to animal proteins. Contrary to the wishful thinking, soy- and legume-based proteins do not provide the dietary punch of animal proteins. Sorry if that doesn’t dovetail with your utopian dreams.
Fact: It is the consumption of animal proteins and fats which led to the convolutions of the human brain that are the hallmark of our intelligence.
Fact: humans have the amount of tooth enamel consistent with what nature endows omnivores and carnivores. Were humans intended to consume an exclusively (or even primarily) vegetable-based diet, we’d have much more enamel on our teeth — because herbivores need thicker enamel to protect against the abrasive effects of the cellulose fibers in plants. Herbivores have many more times as much enamel on their teeth than carnivores or herbivores.
Non meat eaters do live longer than meat eaters. Check Google search. Innuit Life expectancy is around 70; it is not as high as the longest living places in the world such as 7th Day Adventists in Loma Linda, Mediterranean people and Okinawa (before Western diet showed up). I am not sure why life expectancy does not matter in your eyes. Fine, you think IQ matters, vegetarians have a higher IQ; not sure if this is due to the diet or self selection or a mix.
What is inferior about plant protein? Is this junk science? Plant matter is in general lower in protein and fat than animal matter, but there is sufficient carbohydrates/fat/protein. What is a “dietary punch of animal proteins”; do you want Mac Danzig or some other of the multiple MMA vegans to kick your ass?
Vegetarians do have more concerns with oral health; I don’t know how much more. I think it is more due to the acidity of some fruits. But, the list of diseases which can be prevented or cured by reducing or eliminating meat from one’s diet is much longer. I rely on academic studies, not on BS hearsay from animal rights folks; I have alienated the animal rights folks.
A few other points.
Fact: Vegetarians have a lower BMI than meat eaters, vegans even lower. A high BMI was useful when we had less calories; in today’s world, it reduces quality of life with high and rising obesity rates.
Fact: Our food system has changed dramatically especially in the past generation or 2. Plants and animals, but especially animals. Most food fed to animal is not from pasture but from crops we grow; whatever affects we have done to crops affects the animals who eat them. Our animal products today do not resemble the animal products we ate generation ago, even less so the animal products we ate a thousand years ago, high antibiotic levels, high fat. Calling the stuff grown on factory farms ‘meat’ does not make it hunted game.
Fact: All processed food, whether plant or animal is dead before consumption as is most unprocessed meat products. In contrast, most fresh produce, beans, rice etc. is alive up to the point of cooking. Once death occurs, nutrition levels drop. Our plant and animal sources used to be closer to alive, now the only ones close to life are plant.
Fact: Animal products are more calorie dense; but per calorie, plant foods are more nutrition dense. If you want to get enough calories (not much of a problem in rich countries today), a meat heavy diet works fine. If you want enough nutrition without overdoing a calorie budget which will make you fat, a non meat diet is superior. An average vegan diet is inadequate in less vitamins than a Standard American Diet.
If you wish to be as close to a diet exercised by our cavemen ancestors, a so called ‘Paleo’ diet is a good start, but if you want to match their nutrition intake a vegan Paleo diet is the closest match.
Hi Adam, can you pls share some links with me that support your argument that pork is bad for you. I am very interested is this topic. Thanks
Ever considered that the whole anti bacon “research” is propaganda by the big beef industry….just look at the damage that the sugar industry has done to society with its 45 years of lies confusion and propaganda. ..keeping us confused is always a ploy by some big industry..
And where did the amines come from? The breakdown of amino acids correct?
The traditional drying methods (and inadvertent fermentation) of tabacco leaves will produce same. Even worse, hang the leaves in a propane heated chimney
Regardless of whether nitrites/nitrates are good o bad for the entire populous – I happen to be someone who has a serious food sensitivity to these preservatives. If there is no harm, why do these companies make two types – one with nitrites for US consumption and one without them to be sold in Europe? Have you tasted these products without the added chemicals? They actually taste like – bacon!! Such hogwash that there is nothing wrong with additives in our food – except they never had them 50 years ago. Any idea why cancer, heart disease, etc. is on the climb? Too simple of an answer for the food companies and FDA to protect us from these killer compounds.
I am very sorry to tell you this but…..people have been using nitrates/nitrites in their food for hundreds of years. They were in the unrefined salts that people would use to preserve food, and this was discovered at the turn of the 20th century, long after the mechanism of curing had been established and an integral way to keep food through the winter months and the rest of the year as well. (Wiley, 5 p. 209)
Your suppositions are not more than speculation without reliable sources. Especially those concerning all of these allusions to additives being the cause of all health issues listed (rather than the mere fact that we are better at identifying them now, and that the average person lives long enough to see many of these issues today). The additives you are talking about are inherently different than these curing agents.
Please, in the future, avoid such sensationalized lines of reasoning.
Please don’t make the mistake of using “average lifespan” statistics, without allowing for the extremely high infant mortality rates of earlier populations, which reduces the “average” lifespan considerably. If you remove the data for all the people who died before age 5, then lifespan has changed very little in thousands of years.
The rest of what you are saying is probably correct.
B.S. There are WAY more elderly people now than when I was a kid. I’m only 37, but just going to a store, you’d see 1 or 2 old ladies, NEVER any old men. Now, it seems there are more elderly than
Watch old movies, 60 year olds were put in rockers, on the front porch, now, 60 year olds are Sylvester Stallone boxing men half his age (Rocky 6)
While, yes, deceased children take down those number, there are far more people living into their 80s than ever before, and centenarians are hitting record numbers
The rise in heart disease and other health issues can largely be associated with poor air quality and sedentary life styles. (And don’t get me started on how messing with a the natural diurnal cycle messes with our bodies.) The increase in elderly is largely associated with the fact there are just MORE people that age.
Things changed, people began waiting later in life to have children and get married, infertility from environmental factors, people moved into cities where they didn’t have as much room for a big family, and cost of living went up but not wages so many two parent house holds were still working 40+ hours a week just to support two children.
And then theres the fact that the baby boomers and rapidly catching up in age!
DWS: infant mortality is only one factor. Hygiene is at least as relevant to average lifespan statistics as infant mortality — 500 years ago, when the average Englishman, who bathed two or three times a year, max, and smelled like a landfill, lived to be 35 or 40 years old, the average Japanese, who bathed almost daily, was living into his 70s. There are other factors.
But, the assumption you made that we lived until 35 or 40 is based on average statistics that were the result of a >15% infant mortality (200 years ago) If you survived the infant years, then there was a very good chance you would live into your 70’s or 80s.
I suspect these misleading average statisitcs are used by the medical establishment to exaggerate the benefit of “modern medicine” – in much the same way they exaggerate the benefit of vaccines by ignoring the fact that most diseases had already reduced to 100th of what they were, well before vaccines were introduced, due to better sanitation and nutrition.
I don’t want additives in my food , but nitrates have been used to cure meat for a long time and throughout that time, life expectancy has increased. As for cancer, there are many more likely suspects to consider before nitrates.
The answer is simple, it creates another market.
there are more than 3500 different cured pork products available in Europa and they all taste like ” bacon “??
You may want to read this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curing_(food_preservation)
This is the second article on food I have happened across by this author that is jam-packed full of false information! Again, author has no medical or nutritional education or experience posted, and no degrees behind his name.
The last article I saw was on Vegan/vegetarian diets and myths. Most of the information he provided was false to the point of being dangerous.
So let me just ad a tidbit here – Nitrites found in bacon, hot dogs, sausages (turkey-beef-chicken), corned beef, deli meats, jerky, and other foods that have been canned, processed, pickled, smoked, and cured. It is used as a flavor enhancer and a preservative. Sodium Nitrite is an irritant to the brain and nervous system, it is common known in the medical community to be one of a large group of chemicals that trigger migraines and other tingling/paresthesia-like symptoms. Bacon is also full of fats and high amounts of sodium chloride, known to be a cause of renal and cardiac problems.
So, again, I tell you, don’t believe every opinion you find vomited up on the internet. Do yourself a favor and consult a licensed and experienced professional if you have questions about your health and dieting. The Paleo diet, BACON specifically in this article, are NOT healthy. Plain and simple. Ask your MD if you don’t believe me!
Lisa H. – Bachelor’s of Science degree in Nursing, 35 hrs of RN experience in a wide variety of specialties – including Urgent and Cardiac Care, Bariatrics, and Stroke and Brain Injury Rehabilitation, and Internal Medicine/Family Practice Clinic work.
The author is talking specifically about nitrates, not bacon health, and what he says is the same as the peer-reviewed studies in nutrition journals. Check for yourself. The original nitrate study was poor science and has bee discredited. That doesn’t mean that bacon is a health food, only that the claims about nitrates are not backed by science.
There is limited evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of nitrite in food. Nitrite in food is associated with an increased incidence of stomach cancer. …There is sufficient evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of nitrite in combination with amines or amides. There is limited evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of nitrite per se. Overall evaluation: Ingested nitrate or nitrite under conditions that result in endogenous nitrosation is probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A).
IARC. Monographs on the Evaluation of the Carcinogenic Risk of Chemicals to Humans. Geneva: World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, 1972-PRESENT. (Multivolume work). Available at: http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Classification/index.php , p. V94: p. 323 (2010)
I appreciate you attempting to contribute, but it seems you provide a lot of misinformation as well. “It is a brain irritant”? What does that even mean. It has been found to be a migraine trigger, but so has chewing gum and being sleepy.
It seems that Chris is understating the health concerns with Sodium Nitrite. There are some very significant health concerns with this chemical, and the FDA mandates that certain additives be included to block the formation of nitrosamines. If it was truly safe, I doubt that we would see such regulations.
The FDA – go read how and why they allow additives. Many times, they refuse to declare them unsafe, so they instead are considered safe. That is far from the truth – they don’t test every food or additive we eat. That is exactly part of the problem – in 1958 the FDA passed a ruling that food additives did not need to be tested is generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Problem is, back then there were 800 additives – today 10,000 and growing. And non of those items on the GRAS list has EVER been tested. The FDA allows the food companies to perform their own tests. Still feel safe? Then keep eating whatever you want it’s your body. Just don’t spout off about the FDA allowing nitrites when you don’t have your facts straight.
Lisa -I don’t think that having 35 hours (less than an actual work week!) of nursing experience makes you someone I would listen to for health advice!
Bob – Even GPs, in my experience, have little useful
to say about diet and probably don’t have much more training than Lisa. When I asked mine what I should do to put on a bit of weight she said, “have a little glass of wine for your elevenses and a small salami sandwich”! I did not take her advice.
So true, the medical community (including nutritionists) aren’t up to date on the flaws and dogmas from the past 50 years of “research”
That surprised me, too, but I have to think it’s a typo. Surely she meant “35 yrs” rather than “35 hrs.” Otherwise she wouldn’t brag about it!
Nothing she said impressed me, unfortunately, and especially not, “Ask your MD if you don’t believe me!” If I were waiting for my MD to give me health and nutrition advice, I’d be a wreck. None of them has yet helped me until I figured out my problem and told them what I needed. I’ll keep giving them chances, but most visits to an MD are more frustrating than anything else.
Ask a naturopath if you want a real answer. Not a trained pill pusher.
Take five seconds to search through peer reviewed literature before you try to dispute his cited information. There’s a great review by Boink et al. That thoroughly addresses this issue. A basic summary of their findings:
Organic nitrates convert to nitrite in the body which is mildly toxic causing a drop in blood pressure. However, the effect is so minimal that one would need to already have consistently low blood pressure for it to be dangerous. Throughout the conversion process, nitrates strengthen arterial walls and can actually break down plaque within the arteries through a different bonding reaction.
I am one of those low BP people, and eating beets, lettuce, spinach, etc, will tank it even lower on me. So will high nitrate water. I do find it interesting that some researchers have found a link between nitrates and alzheimer’s
parkinson’s and diabetes. Even more interesting is the new drug for alzheimer’s from TauRx Therapeutics is actually methylene blue…. which is the standard treatment for nitrate poisoning.
you are so full of it, you are saying that natural animal fat is bad. this is more programming from the fraud department of the medical complex.they lied about butter, lied about margarine,lied about sat. fats, lied about cholesterol,lied about salt ,lied about almost everything ,wanting us to buy what the processors are selling that seem to make the most profit.
there is little profit in bacon eggs and butter. that have been consumed for many thousands of years, and you and your buddies want to scare us away from these good foods so we will eat, sugar . carbs and trans fats. you need to be ashamed , do your research apart from your trainers and apologize to the people, you and your ilk have made SICK
i guess im blaming you a little heavy but hey its a good debate if you have big shoulders. i lost 38 lbs doing opposite of the docs advice and feel awesome.
You clearly had too much. What a nonsens
Your BS in nursing does not qualify you as a nutritionist. Chris Kresser is a well-known nutritionist, and everybody knows that allopathic medicine, of which you are a member, is living in the world of $tandard of care, and is a big scam setup by Big Pharma, Insurance Companies, and the Hospitals to rake in multi trillions of dollars each year off the mutiliated, murdered and sickened bodies of millions of Americans. This is the Internet, and this forum is for Internet savvy people who get their answers elsewhere than from the TV ads and the system’s corporate scams designed to enslave and sicken the populace.
far be it for me to argue with someone who managed to complete a 4 year nursing program…. but you sort of disqualified your entire point when you mentioned how bacon has to be bad for your health because it is high in fat. The fat diet health hypothesis is wrong and 70 years ago, it has been proved wrong time and again. Most recent studies show that excess carbohydrate intake is the cause of most diseases, including heart disease. Animals fats raise both HDL and LDL, but there is no correlation between overall LDL levels and heart disease. There is however two types of LDL, big fluffy molecules and small sticky molecules. The animal fats create harmless large fluffy molecules. When you eat excess carbs your liver produces small sticky LDL molecules, and it is these small molecules that are indicated in heart disease. Doctors who know their jobs are now ordering LDL subfaction tests to best gauge patient heart disease risks. Animal fats, especially lard which is high in monounsaturated fat, are actually not bad for you at all. Of course I’m sure you know this, being a nurse and all.
You might want to check your facts. It turns out smaller particle size might be more protective.
“To address this question, however, one must look at changes in cardiovascular events or direct markers of atherosclerosis (e.g., IMT) while holding LDL-P constant and then again holding LDL size constant. Only when you do this can you see that the relationship between size and event vanishes. The only thing that matters is the number of LDL particles – large, small, or mixed.”