Consuming foods containing nitrites increases the risk of developing diabetes


More than 15,000 packaged products on the French market currently contain nitrites and/or nitrates. Frequently used to ensure better preservation of processed meats (ham, sausages, etc.), however, the harmlessness of this food additive is a matter of debate. Researchers have studied the role of dietary nitrites/nitrates in the onset of type 2 diabetes. Conclusion: Eating foods containing nitrites increases the risk of developing diabetes. explanations.

Nitrates and nitrates are compounds found naturally in some foods (especially vegetables) as well as in water and soil; Agricultural and industrial practices can exacerbate this phenomenon. So these compounds are found in our food. They are widely used as additives to increase the shelf life of certain foods such as charcuterie, and their antimicrobial role limits the development of pathogenic bacteria that cause some food infections. They also make it possible to give a pink color to meat and other charcuterie products. More than 15,000 packaged products on the French market currently contain added nitrates or nitrates. Eating nitrites increases the risk of diabetes!

However, some public health authorities have called for limiting the use of nitrates and nitrates as food additives, due to their potential impact on Colorectal cancer risk[1]. Previous experimental studies had already suggested an association between nitrite and nitrate exposure and the onset of metabolic impairments, but epidemiological and clinical data are still incomplete.

In order to deepen knowledge on this topic, a research team from Inserm, INRAE, Sorbonne University Paris Nord, Paris City University and Cnam consulted data collected from 104,168 participants in a prospective NutriNet-Santé cohort.

Risks associated with nitrite consumption

Volunteers provided detailed information on their food intake by providing scientists with complete records of their meals over a repeated 24-hour period, including product and brand names. This approach allowed the team to accurately assess exposures to Nitrate and nitrite additives participants, with high levels of accuracy. In addition, this information was supplemented by monitoring data provided by health authorities, which provided information on the degree of exposure of volunteers to nitrites/nitrates of non-additive origin (via water and thus soil) according to their location in the territory.

The scientists also had access to data about the participants’ medical history, their sociodemographic data, as well as information about their physical activity, lifestyle and health status. The participants studied here did not have it Type 2 diabetes At inclusion, they were followed up between 2009 and 2021 to monitor the onset of this disease.

The researchers performed statistical analyzes to investigate the associations between nitrite/nitrate exposure (as a food additive and as a non-additive) and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Participants with greater exposure to nitrites (especially from food additives, but also from “non-additive” sources) were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

In this study, the increased risk was indeed 27% for people with the highest nitrite consumption totals compared to those with the lowest intake (with a breakdown of 53% higher for people consuming the most nitrites from additives and 26% for nitrites from other sources).

No association was found between exposure to nitrates and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The results also showed no benefit of dietary nitrites or nitrates in protecting against type 2 diabetes.

This is the first large-scale cohort study to report an association between nitrites from additives and a possible increased risk of type 2 diabetes. »explain Bernard Srour, a postdoctoral researcher at Inserm, and Mathilde Tuffer, director of research for Inserm, who led this study.

These findings provide new evidence in the context of current discussions regarding the need to reduce the use of nitrite additives in processed meats by the food industry, and may also support the need for better regulation of nitrite additives. Fertilizer contamination of soils. Meanwhile, many public health authorities around the world have recommended that citizens limit their consumption of foods containing controversial additives, including sodium nitrite. »The two scientists conclude.

[1] ANSES report on the risks associated with the consumption of nitrates and nitrates deposited in July 2022

Sources :

Dietary exposure to nitrites and nitrates in association with risk of type 2 diabetes: results from the population-based NutriNet-Santé cohort study.

Bernard Srour 1,2*, Eloi Chazelas 1,2, Nathalie Droisen-Piccolo 1,2, Younes Elseddik 1, Fabian Szabo de Edleny 1, Cedric Agassie 1, Alexandre DeSa 1, Rebecca Lachia 1, Charlotte Debra 1, 2, Laurie Selmy 1, 2, Angie, Chantal Julia 1,4, Emmanuelle Kiss-Joyot 1,2, Benjamin Alice 1, Pilar Galin 1,2, Serge Hersberg 1,2,4, Fabrice Pierre 2,5, Melanie Dechaaux-Tanguy 1 , 2, Mathilde Tofer 1,2

1 Sorbonne University Paris Nord, Inserm U1153, Inrae U1125, Cnam, Paris City University; Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team (EREN), Center for Research in Epidemiology and Statistics – (CRESS), Bobigny, France,
2 Nutrition and Cancer Research Network (NACRe Network), Joy-en-Joussas, France,
3 International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization, Lyon, France,
4 Department of Public Health, Avicenne Hospital, AP-HP, Bobigny, France,
5 Toxalim (Centre for Research in Food Toxicology), University of Toulouse, INRAE, ENVT, INP-Purpan, UPS, Toulouse, France

Plus MedicineJanuary 17, 2023



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