The French Agency for Health and the Environment, Ansis, recently published a report confirming the link between colon cancer risks and the consumption of nitrates and nitrates. The agency recommends limiting the addition of nitrites to some commonly used food products, such as processed meat.
In 2015, 2017, and 2018, the Efsa (European Food Safety Authority) and the World Health Organization have already established a link between colorectal cancer and exposure to nitrites/nitrates in foods. The reason is said to be the additives in charcuterie and other meat products that are used to extend the shelf life of the products and to give pork its pink (usually gray) colour. The addition of nitrite also prevents bacteria such as salmonella, listeria, or botulinum toxin from developing. But nitrites in food and nitrates create in the body compounds known as nitrosamines: these are carcinogens.
“Other cancer risks are suspected as well, but it is not yet possible to establish a causal relationship from the available data,” de Ancis explains.
Read also: What are the risks of eating too much nitrate-rich food?
Not only in charcuterie
Charcuterie isn’t the only culprit. In his new report, De Ancis explains that the sources of nitrates and nitrites in food are diverse.
nitrates They are found naturally in water and in some plants (spinach, lettuce, etc.). Contrary to what one might think, plants are the most exposed to nitrates.
nitrite You can find it mainly in charcuterie. Processed meat on its own already contains more than half of the recommended intake through the additives used in the preparation.
Therefore, Anses recommends, on the one hand, controlling the amount of nitrate in the water through good agricultural practices, if it is not of natural origin. On the other hand, it is recommended to limit the consumption of processed meat to 150 grams per week, and to eat a varied and balanced diet of fruits and vegetables from different sources. At least, as long as no measures are taken to reduce the amount of nitrites in processed meats.
Read also: Is meat carcinogenic?
Be careful with vegetable substitutes
It’s tempting to buy products that say “nitrite-free.” But Anses warns consumers: “Some manufacturers use plant extracts or plant broth as alternatives to nitrite additives. This is not a true alternative, as they naturally contain nitrates that are converted into nitrites by bacteria. Thus these products without added nitrites will reduce the Exposure to nitrites “Not really diminished.”
Therefore, the best solution at the moment is to reduce the consumption of processed meat and eat a varied and balanced diet.
Read also: Can I reduce my cancer risk by eating a plant-based diet?