Hot dogs are one of the most consumed processed foods in America and many people don’t realize the harm they are causing to themselves and to their children.
Even though there has been a debate about exactly what’s in them, it hasn’t stopped the majority of Americans from consuming them.
A recent study has shown that children who consume more than 12 hot dogs per month have 9 times the normal risk of developing childhood leukemia.
Two other reports claim that children born to mothers who consume at least one hot dog a week during pregnancy have double the normal risk of developing brain tumors, as do children whose fathers consumed hot dogs before conception.
What makes hot dogs harmful?
The reason lies behind the nitrate and nitrite additives that hot dogs contain. These additives are used as preservatives and form carcinogens in the human body. Three different studies suggest that consuming hot dogs can be a risk factor for childhood cancer.
Even though nitrites are not cancer-causing by themselves, when they are combined with amines that are naturally present in the meat and form by-products called N-nitroso (nitrosamines and nitrosamides) during certain conditions in the body, they create dangerous carcinogenic compounds. These compounds have been linked to cancer of the oral cavity, brain, urinary bladder, stomach, esophagus, and leukemia.
Nitrites are also found in many veggies, such as spinach, celery, and green lettuce, but in these cases they are safe to consume and even serve to lower the cancer risk. This is because vegetables also contain vitamin C and vitamin D, both of which stop the formation of N-nitroso compounds.
But, not all hot dogs contain nitrites. Nitrite-containing and nitrite-free hot dogs taste the same but differ in their color. Nitrite-free hot dogs are less popular due to their brownish color.
How can you protect your children and yourself from cancer-causing nitrites?
- Avoid hot dogs that contain nitrite or minimize your consumption of hot dogs to a minimum.
- Look for nitrite-free hot dogs in the supermarket
- Carefully read the label and avoid products that list sodium or potassium nitrates and nitrites
- Eat a diet rich in antioxidants and vitamin C. Vitamin C is known to block the conversion of nitrates to nitrosamines.