Angry Toxicologist

Maybe, but you should certainly avoid deli meats for the listeria (If you follow through that link and read you’ll know why). This isn’t an abstract risk, Listeria out breaks are happening all the time (just ask a Canuck how their year went). Let’s not go down that road and get back to the nitrates.

Nitrates can convert to nitrites in your gut if you have high pH. If you’re normal almost all of the nitrates are not converted or absorbed into your body. Now, there’s no good way to tell if you have a high pH gut so you’re going to have to assume that you do. So, these converted nitrites get absorbed and do one of two things: they form N-nitrosamines which are cancer causing agents, or they latch on to hemaglobin to form methemoglobinemia, a condition that makes it so your blood can’t carry oxygen around. When you’re pregnant, you’re worried about the second issue.

How that lack of oxygen leads to the effects nitrates are known for is unknown. Perhaps it through a different pathway. Regardless, from animal studies, we know that nitrate, nitrite, and N-nitroso compounds cross the placenta. Methemoglobin probably can’t after the 4th month or so but this doesn’t ease the problem of low oxygen delivery to the placenta.

The most consistent finding from nitrates is that of spontaneous abortion. This occurs in some studies at as little as 2.5mg/kg in not in others and seems to be about the break point. A pregnant rat is roughly 200 g or little under so that’s about 0.5 mg/day for a rat. To convert to an equivalent human dose toxicologists (good ones anyway) use a mg/m^2 basis. So 2.5 mg/kg is about 15 mg/m^2 in a rat; 15 mg/m^2 in a human is about 24 mg/day for an average person. The amount of nitrates in meats has gone down quite a bit over the past couple years and meats have between 6-20 mg/kg of nitrate so you’d have to eat over a kg of a highly perserved meat (like salami for instance) to get close to this.

You can see where I’m going with this: if you eat a small amount of food with nitrates once in a while you’re fine but it’s a good idea to generally avoid them. Interestingly enough, most of your nitrate intake comes from really healthy things like dark green veggies that you need to keep eating especially while pregnant (although a daily spinach salad may be overboard). All things in moderation. Oh, one more thing. If you eat a lot of vitamin C with the nitrates, it reduces the amount that’s converted to nitrites.

There is a better way.

Don’t want high nitrates or listeria? Do what I do: make your own! Last year I posted on my favorite breakfast sausage recipie, and you can make your own small hams and bacon and use very little or no nitrates. An excellent source is Charcuterie (I’ve got their breakfast sausage beat, though). The thing about making your own sausage is that it tastes much, much better, you’ll enjoy the product even more (and likely the process too), but best of all, you’ll end up eating less because you recognize the work that went into it and will view these cured meats as the treats they are.

Thanks to Liz for asking the question.

Comments

  1. #1 Erin
    December 18, 2008

    You’re pregnant??

  2. #2 Anna
    December 18, 2008

    The listeria point is a very good one, and I agree, far more important than the nitrate consideration.

    There is a very good post on this at Junkfood Science, pointing out that many common vegetables have far more nitrates than cured meats.

    http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2008/07/does-banning-hotdogs-and-bacon-make.html

    I actually think the meat itself is the most important consideration, and how the product was produced (industrially?), not whether the added nitrates are synthetic or natural (celery juice, etc.).

    Was the animal(s) humanely raised on natural feed (pastured) without added growth hormones and healthy and unstressed at the time of slaughter?

    Or was the animal raised quickly with added antibiotics and growth hormones to speed the the time to market weight? Did the animal(s) live a miserable, stressed life without a natural herd hierarchy in a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation), eating predominately grains and other unnatural feeds (which also raises rumen (gut) pH and mutation/production of pathogenic e. coli bacteria), while breathing fecal dust? Was it stressed and already showing signs of disease at the time of slaughter, to the point that it was prompted to move along with a fork lift?

    Was the cured meat produced in an artisan manner, with care and individual attention with a technique and recipe that goes back generations, perhaps even a process that is hundreds or 1000s of years in old? If there is a contamination problem, in this method of production, it is likely to only affect a small number of people in a limited geographical area, therefore more easily contained and managed.

    Or was it made in a factory with machines controlling the process, with fillers and extenders to make up for lack of quality real food ingredients, added chemicals to shorten the production process, cheapen the product, artificially extend the shelf-life, and mask the lack of flavor compared to the artisan versions? And if the there is a listeria recall, does it extend across a wide swath of area, across state or even national borders? Will all of the product ever be identified or withheld from the public before it is consumed?

    So I don’t worry so much about nitrates as long as I choose well-produced foods that are made from quality ingredients. To that end I am learning to make more of these myself. Once I tasted a super slow roasted round roast of bison, venison, or beef, I knew I couldn’t buy common packaged or even grocery store deli counter roast beef anymore. I make my own (10 minutes prep and the oven does the rest!).

  3. #3 Rogue Epidemiologist
    December 18, 2008

    The best way to prevent bacon-related Listeria is to make sure your bacon is cooked to a complete crisp, and that it’s served piping hot.

    mmm…bacon.

    As for nitrates and nitrites, I’d rather get right to the point: mmm…bacon.

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    December 19, 2008

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  5. #5 per
    December 21, 2008

    To convert to an equivalent human dose toxicologists (good ones anyway) use a mg/m^2 basis.

    strange; ‘cos there seem to be an awful lot of papers in the literature pointing out that there are other methods, and that body surface area is not always appropriate.

    2.5 mg/kg turns out to be >170 mgs for your 70kg human, and that would be >8kgs of preserved meat, according to your figures.

    if you eat a small amount of food with nitrates once in a while you’re fine but it’s a good idea to generally avoid them.
    you know, I really don’t understand where you come up with this, even from your own logic. You are under the effect level for nitrates, unless you are eating more than a kg of meat per day; which I judge to be fairly unlikely.

    confused
    per

  6. #6 spor haberleri
    January 1, 2009

    thankss.

  7. #7 darkworld
    January 3, 2009

    thank you very much

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  9. #9 netlog
    February 15, 2009

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    April 17, 2009

    Was the cured meat produced in an artisan manner, with care and individual attention with a technique and recipe that goes back generations, perhaps even a process that is hundreds or 1000s of years in old? If there is a contamination problem, in this method of production, it is likely to only affect a small number of people in a limited geographical area, therefore more easily contained and managed.

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    May 12, 2009

    Was the cured meat produced in an artisan manner, with care and individual attention with a technique and recipe that goes back generations, perhaps even a process that is hundreds or 1000s of years in old? If there is a contamination problem, in this method of production, it is likely to only affect a small number of people in a limited geographical area, therefore more easily contained and managed

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  26. #26 apartmets wroclaw
    June 4, 2009

    I think that women (are pregnant)should have restrain in eating and drinking. not only bacon can be injurious

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    July 17, 2009

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  29. #29 sohbet
    July 25, 2009

    The best way to prevent bacon-related Listeria is to make sure your bacon is cooked to a complete crisp, and that it’s served piping hot.

  30. #30 yonja
    July 26, 2009

    thank you very much

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    August 5, 2009

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  32. #32 Ashton
    August 23, 2009

    It’s interesting that I haven’t heard of this before. I’ve heard no sushi, wine, and smoking, however the sausage and ham are new to me. I’d like to research this more, but.. seems you have done that already. It’s appreciated! :)
    -Ash
    Cigars

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    September 24, 2009

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  35. #35 Hosting
    October 2, 2009

    If there is a contamination problem, in this method of production, it is likely to only affect a small number of people in a limited geographical area, therefore more easily contained and managed

  36. #36 teeth whitening kits
    October 22, 2009

    Because we have a broad multicultural audience holding every conceivable political and religious viewpoint, we want to respect their views while also possibly challenging them. We will host controversial work. We will encourage robust debate of the hottest topics

  37. #37 Yeast Infection
    October 29, 2009

    May be,but I think you must avoid deli meat at this stage.Because you are pregnant.May be this will bad effect on your baby health.

  38. #38 high power led
    November 7, 2009

    thanks for your sharing.I learned.

  39. #39 cosmetic dentistry
    November 12, 2009

    Very useful info, good to know what to not avoid. Though I think the best advice is to just eat everything in moderation. That way you get variety but are unlikely to eat to much of a bad thing.

  40. #40 Abercrombie
    November 30, 2009

    Very useful info, good to know what to not avoid. Though I think the best advice is to just eat everything in moderation. I agree with you.

  41. #41 katliam74
    December 17, 2009

    thanks

  42. #42 Charles Henrock
    December 20, 2009

    I can say that I’m glad my wife doesn’t like bacon nor deli meats. I had no idea that they posed so much of a risk. I’m probably going to rule them out of my diet as well!

    -Charles
    HEPA Air Cleaner | Newborn Diapers

  43. #44 Acai
    December 31, 2009

    I think if you are pregnant then definitely you should be very much concious about your health and diet.because that can definitely effect you and your baby

  44. #45 Cigarrest
    January 3, 2010

    absolutely. you eat for 2. diet, smoking, drinking women are essentially egoists that shouldn’t be mother. sorry for being so harsh, it’s just that i’ve seen so many kids grow up as screw ups because of parents that didn’t care enough.

  45. The best way to prevent bacon-related Listeria is to make sure your bacon is cooked to a complete crisp, and that it’s served piping hot

    http://www.ne-nerede.com

  46. #47 Acai
    January 23, 2010

    I think during pregnancy we should avoid all those things which can harm baby.

  47. #48 eokul
    February 1, 2010

    Would like to thank the site owner. really made a good site eokul but I can not see the turkey, please, say school e okul eklermisin them. Hallo e mezun ve ayrıca kolejler de e-okul mevcuttur yani

  48. #49 acai berry
    February 3, 2010

    if you pregancey, i have to avoid eating any diet.

  49. #50 arbonne skin care review
    February 10, 2010

    i would never deli meat,especially when your pregnant

  50. #51 WEBHOSTINGPAD COUPON CODE
    February 17, 2010

    Why bacon?.. There’s a lots of food which are rich in vitamins and protiens..

  51. #52 WTOOL.NET
    February 17, 2010

    nitrates is very harmful to babies.. just stay away.

  52. Yes for sure stay away from bacon,even if its fully cooked you still run the risk of bacterias. A pregnant woman should never eat bacon

  53. #54 Daniel
    June 21, 2010

    Also avoid sausages because lets be honest unless you get them from a farm or independant butchers they contain alot of carcinogenic properties.

  54. #55 Instant Weight Loss
    August 17, 2010

    I think that women should have restrain in eating and drinking. not only bacon can be injurious, take rest and nothing.

  55. #56 Max
    November 5, 2010

    Buy all food unprocessed and prepare it yourself. Almost all processed foods contain chemicals determent to your health. The manufactures have to add them to make the product last longer.
    Stick to all natural food and avoid excessive animal proteins.

  56. #57 Max
    November 5, 2010

    Stick to unprocessed food only and make sure you get enough starch.
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  57. #58 เกมส์
    November 19, 2010

    if you are pregnant, it’s good if you avoid Colesterol.

  58. #59 เกมส์
    November 19, 2010

    if you are pregnant, it’s good if you avoid Colesterol.

  59. #60 Jinny
    December 3, 2010

    erm.. I agree with the comments above
    I think during pregnancy we should avoid all those things which can harm baby.

  60. if you are pregnant, it’s good if you avoid Colesterol.

  61. Very useful info, good to know what to not avoid. Though I think the best advice is to just eat everything in moderation. I had no idea that they posed so much of a risk. I’m probably going to rule them out of my diet as well! PS If you choose to accept our invitation and would like a photo and a short biography to appear on GlobalPost, please send both to me with your confirmation e-mail or at some time shortly thereafter. By appearing on Global Post�s exciting new international news website, your words, viewpoints, and pictures would gain worldwide exposure. Your posts would not only appear instantly on globalpost.com but also possibly on the sites of our partners, including the Huffington Post. Thanks for sharing..

  62. #63 Gordon
    September 15, 2011

    You are what you eat. When is enough research there to make change? I really wonder sometimes.

  63. #64 Kimberly
    December 6, 2011

    Anything that contains chemicals and processed should be avoided if you can avoid it. Also refrain from eating genetically engineered plants like soybeans and corn created by Monsanto.

  64. #65 Zeek
    December 8, 2011

    Yes stay away from nitrates. They are a risk to you and your baby.