Nitrites in food additives are associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, especially when people eat a lot of red meat and processed meat.
Nitrites are added to processed meats to improve flavor and extend shelf life. Need another reason to cut back on red and processed meat? A new study suggests that a common additive called nitrites in these foods is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
For this study, the researchers looked at the eating habits of more than 104,000 adults with an average age of 43 years and no history of type 2 diabetes. Based on detailed dietary records, the scientists calculated the number of people exposed to nitrates and nitrites Naturally occurring chemicals are found in whole foods like leafy green vegetables and in additives used to improve the taste and shelf life of processed meats and other mass food products.
Participants were followed for approximately seven years and nearly 1,000 of them developed type 2 diabetes. People whose diets contained the highest amount of nitrites from food additives were 53% more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than those participants whose diets contained the least amount of meat and processed foods, the researchers reported Jan. 17 in PLoS Medicine. Exposure to naturally occurring nitrites in leafy green vegetables and other whole foods was also associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, but the effect was much weaker.
Processed meats are the most common source of added nitrites
Looking closely at the participants’ diets, the scientists found that processed meats such as ham and sausage were by far the top source of nitrite-containing food additives, followed by convenience foods containing processed meats. Together, these types of foods accounted for 76% of the nitrites from food additives.
To reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, people should eat a variety of unprocessed or minimally processed foods, especially fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains, and avoid foods that may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, such as processed foods. meats, soft drinks and ultra-processed foods in general.
Type 2 diabetes develops when the pancreas can no longer effectively produce or use the hormone insulin to convert sugars from food into energy. The study was not designed to test whether or how nitrites can directly cause type 2 diabetes, but scientists do know that nitrites consumed in food can damage pancreatic cells responsible for insulin production.
Green leafy vegetables are always part of a healthy diet
The study may have found a lower risk associated with nitrites in healthy foods like leafy green vegetables because people who eat this way have a healthier diet overall than those who eat a lot of red and processed meat. Vegetables also contain many nutrients, such as antioxidants, that protect against diabetes.
Plant-based diets can reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes.
These findings add to a growing body of research, outlined in a January 2020 article in Diabetes Care, linking red meat and processed meat to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. in plants. Getting plenty of exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, abstaining from smoking, and limiting alcohol intake can also help minimize risk.
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