VILLETANEUSE, France — Food additives that give bacon and sausages their characteristic color and flavor could be causing eaters to develop Type 2 diabetes, new research warns.
A team in France has found that nitrites and nitrates raise the risk of the metabolic disease. Food producers commonly use these preservatives in cured meat and other processed foods. They increase shelf life by hindering the growth of harmful microorganisms.
Nitrites, together with nitrates, also keep meat from losing its red color while providing more flavor. Meanwhile, nitrates prevent certain cheeses from bloating during fermentation.
“These results provide a new piece of evidence in the context of current discussions regarding the need for a reduction of nitrite additives’ use in processed meats by the food industry, and could support the need for better regulation of soil contamination by fertilizers. In the meantime, several public health authorities worldwide already recommend citizens to limit their consumption of foods containing controversial additives, including sodium nitrite,” the study authors write in a media release.
Nitrites have a link to several health issues
Nitrites also have a link to causing tumors, researchers Bernard Srour and Dr. Mathilde Touvier say. This is the first time the role of the dietary additives has been explored in metabolic dysfunction and Type 2 diabetes in humans. The team accessed data collected from 104,168 in people over 14 years-old in France, tracked since 2009.
The researchers found those with a higher overall intake of nitrites – specifically from food additives – had a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. There was no association with nitrates and Type 2 diabetes risk.
Participants enrolled voluntarily and self-reported their medical history, sociodemographic, diet, lifestyle, and major health updates. The researchers used detailed nitrite/nitrate exposure, derived from several databases and sources, and then developed statistical models to analyze the information with health outcomes.
“This is the first largescale cohort study to suggest a direct association between additives-originated nitrites and Type-2 diabetes risk. It also corroborates previously suggested associations between total dietary nitrites and T2D risk,” Srour and Touvier conclude.
Over 37 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, with 90 percent of cases being Type 2 form — commonly caused by unhealthy lifestyles and poor dieting. Obesity raises the risk of developing the condition six-fold.
The study is published in PLoS Medicine.
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.