Could hot-dogs increase your cancer risk?

Let’s face it: no matter how you dress them, hot-dogs are not exactly a healthy meal! A new American study doesn’t improve their nutritional profile: according to Nebraska researchers, hot-dog wieners could cause genetic mutations that are at the root of some cancers.

Let’s face it: no matter how you dress them, hot-dogs are not exactly a healthy meal! A new American study doesn’t improve their nutritional profile: according to Nebraska researchers, hot-dog wieners could cause genetic mutations that are at the root of some cancers.

The researchers extracted a purified aqueous solution from store-bought hot-dogs and then added nitrites to the liquid in order to produce a nitrosamine-rich extract. Nitrosamines are groups of chemicals that form when nitrites used to preserve food come into contact with various amines formed by decomposing meat. Until quite recently, they were believed capable of altering genetic material and thus causing cancer. These study findings seem to confirm the hypothesis. The team also added the extract to salmonella bacteria, which underwent major genetic mutations after its stay in the “hot-dog juice”.

The scientists believe that the mutagenic powers of the purified nitrosamine solution, when combined with nitrites, could help explain the proven link between consuming nitrite-preserved meat products and the increase in the rate of colon cancer.

Hot-dog wieners are not the only guilty offenders. All processed meats (e.g. ham, bacon, cold cuts and pâtés) are likely to have the same harmful effects, the main culprits being the nitrites and other substances added to meats to prolong their shelf life.

An increasing number of studies are finding an association between various cancers and eating a lot of red meat and processed meats. Far from forbidding them entirely, the studies rather suggest eating these foods in moderation and under certain conditions. Among other things, they recommend eating red meat once or twice a week and avoiding frying or grilling it (on the BBQ, for example). Charred red meat seems to produce substances called heterocyclic amines, which may also increase the risk of cancer. We would be better off eating more fish, poultry, legumes and soy products rather than red meat, and to add more fruits, vegetables and whole grains high in both fibre and antioxidants to our meals in order to reduce the risks associated with meat products.

Here’s to great health!

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