Research supports calls to study health benefits of nitrate, nitrite

Aug 20, 2009
Research supports calls to study health benefits of nitrate, nitrite
This is Michigan State University researcher Norman Hord. Credit: MSU

A Michigan State University researcher is challenging health standards that consider nitrates and nitrites in food to be harmful.

Norman Hord's research suggests that although there are negative health effects associated with the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers and excessive nitrates in groundwater, nitrates and nitrites -- as they occur in plants -- may actually provide health benefits.

Nitrate and nitrite are naturally occurring ions associated with the nitrogen cycle in and . They are regulated in water and certain foods by the Environmental Protection Agency and the because they have been associated with gastrointestinal cancer, blood disorders in infants and other health problems. The World Health Organization established a standard of 222 milligrams per day as an acceptable daily nitrate intake.

Most of the concern with these compounds relates to their presence in drinking water from shallow wells near farms and the consumption of processed meats. In most diets, however, between 70 percent and 80 percent of the nitrates comes from vegetables, government and research sources say.

"We and others have shown that components of vegetables and fruit that originate in the soil may function as nutrients by contributing to cardiovascular health," says Hord, associate professor of food science and human nutrition. "Since these components of plant foods have important health implications, the regulatory limits on the consumption of plant foods that contain nitrates and nitrites need to be seriously reconsidered."

Hord, the primary author of the study, collaborated with Nathan Bryan and Yaoping Tang at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. Their thesis and supporting arguments were published in the July 2009 issue of The .

"We wanted to show the toxicity risk cited as the basis for federal regulatory levels for nitrate and nitrite are irrational because plant foods contain high concentrations of these food components," Hord said. "People consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables may be ingesting much more nitrate and nitrite than recommended -- more than 1,000 milligrams -- with no adverse health effects. We're calling for a systematic reevaluation of the literature to highlight the potential beneficial contributions that nitrates and nitrites from vegetables and fruits make to cardiovascular health."

In an accompanying editorial, in Foods: Harmful or Healthy?, Martjin Katan from the Institute of Health Sciences at VU University in Amsterdam said it is undisputed that nitrates benefit arteries, and he called for a trial to investigate whether consuming a pattern rich in nitrate-containing vegetables is effective in lowering blood pressure.

Source: Michigan State University (news : web)

Explore further: Oil-swishing craze: Snake oil or all-purpose remedy?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nitrates in vegetables protect against gastric ulcers

May 07, 2008

Fruits and vegetables that are rich in nitrates protect the stomach from damage. This takes place through conversion of nitrates into nitrites by the bacteria in the oral cavity and subsequent transformation into biologically ...

Is your drinking water safe?

Feb 28, 2008

Lake Bloomington is a major source of drinking water for residents of Bloomington, IL, and has a history of nitrate concentrations that exceed safe levels. Because Lake Bloomington has a record of elevated nitrate levels, ...

Nutrients in water may be a bonus for agriculture

Nov 24, 2008

Agriculture producers may find they don't have to bottle their water from the Seymour Aquifer in the Rolling Plains to make it more valuable, according to Texas AgriLife Research scientists.

Food, health get top billing at national chemistry meeting

Aug 19, 2008

Well beyond the advice to drink enough water and not eat too much NaCl, the nation's chemists will get elemental with grapefruit, onions, peppers, tomatoes, carrots and watermelons this week at the American Chemical Society ...

Recommended for you

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury (Update)

Apr 18, 2014

About half of all 16- to 18-year-olds coming into New York City's jails say they had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated, most caused by assaults, according to a new study that's the latest in a growing body ...

Autonomy and relationships among 'good life' goals

Apr 18, 2014

Young adults with Down syndrome have a strong desire to be self-sufficient by living independently and having a job, according to a study into the meaning of wellbeing among young people affected by the disorder.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

docknowledge
not rated yet Aug 21, 2009
Hmm. Suspiciously convenient conclusion.

I know that if, all other things equal, I had a choice between nitrate, nitrite meat and meat without, I never eat meat with them. Just taste. Maybe that's because those meats are lower quality, poorly processed? But processed meat sucks.

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.