Sodium Nitrite is an inorganic compound in the form of a crystalline powder that is soluble in water. It is used in pharmaceuticals, pesticides, dyes, and more commonly in processed food, in order to preserve it longer. There has been a lot of debate surrounding the use of sodium nitrite in food. Some people believe it is healthy, while others denounce it as a harmful addition. Today, we are going to explore the harmful effects of sodium nitrite and how it affects our health.

sodium nitrite white powder

Where Can We Find Sodium Nitrite?

Before going into details about the harmful effects of sodium nitrite, let’s first establish what are its sources. It can be found naturally in the form of sodium nitrate in some vegetables such as broccoli, collard, celery, parsley, cauliflower, and so on. But more importantly, we find sodium nitrate as a preservative in a lot of types of meat and bacon. Meat producers have been using what is called sodium nitrate for generations. It is used to preserve meat and give it a salty flavor. But the problem is that in the 20th century, it has been discovered that the bacteria in the meat turns the sodium nitrate into sodium nitrite. So sodium nitrate is not harmful in itself, it only becomes harmful in contact with meat. When it comes to vegetables, the sodium nitrate turns into sodium nitrite in contact with the bacteria in our mouths.

sodium nitrite in meat

Harmful Effects of Sodium Nitrite

Inhibits Oxygen Transportation

The American Medical Association revealed that if you consume a lot of sodium nitrite, it can lead to a condition called methemoglobinemia. But what is methemoglobinemia? It is a how our red blood cells fail to transport the necessary amount of oxygen through our bodies. If your body does not produce enough hemoglobin, the internal systems won’t receive the amount of oxygen they need to function at full capacity. This is an extremely serious condition that can sometimes be fatal. It usually causes respiratory issues. It is also a sign that you should be careful to consume food with less sodium nitrite in it.

Increases the Risk of Type 1 Diabetes in Children

When a child’s pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, it can lead to type 1 diabetes. Especially in children who are very young. In this case, the doctor has to monitor the insulin levels constantly, as this disease can threaten a child’s life. But how does this relate to sodium nitrite? Well, if a pregnant woman consumes a lot of sodium nitrite, it can increase the possibility of the fetus to be born with or develop type 1 diabetes. According to the American Medical Association, this is more common in male babies. You also have to remember that you can find sodium nitrite in water supplies as well. Especially those coming from shallow or contaminated wells. If you are pregnant and you drink the sodium nitrite water, it can also increase the risk of your child having type 1 diabetes. On the same note, do not let your young child drink from such water supplies.

Can Cause Cancer

Cancer is another harmful effect of sodium nitrites, according to scientists. According to a study conducted by the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii and the University of Southern California, people who eat more processed meat are more likely to get pancreatic cancer than people who don’t eat as much. But how can this happen? It happens when you cook the meat. The sodium nitrite in the meat interacts with amines that are naturally present there, and they form compounds called carcinogenic N-nitroso. Ingesting those compounds increases the risk of pancreatic cancer. Sodium nitrites can also lead to gastrointestinal and brain cancer, says the American Medical Association.

Other Effects

Apart from the more severe health issues such as diabetes and cancer, sodium nitrites can also cause your entire digestive system (mouth, esophagus, stomach) to become irritated. This can lead to you experiencing abdominal pain. Another harmful effect would be that specialists believe that sodium nitrite damages your blood and blood vessels. You can have difficulties breathing, or suffer from palpitations. It can cause birth defects if taken by the mother during pregnancy, and it can even cause the blue-baby syndrome in infants who have a large amount in their bodies. The blue-baby syndrome is a severe respiratory condition.

Everything Summed up

Specialists are warning more and more often about the damaging effects of a high sodium nitrite intake. Unfortunately, it is hard to stay away from it, since you can find sodium nitrate naturally in a lot of vegetables, and in contact with our saliva it turns into sodium nitrite. Also, a large number of the population consumes processed meat, which when cooked can become toxic because of the amount of sodium nitrite used to preserve it. One way you can protect yourself from the harmful effects of sodium nitrite is to carefully read produce labels and search for those who are nitrite-free. Choosing organic food is another great option. Also, consume more vitamin C, it blocks the formation of nitrosamines which are harmful to your health.

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