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Nitrite Expert Refutes Review Linking Processed Meats and Heart Disease, Diabetes

Friday, January 28, 2011

(American Meat Institute)

In a letter published in Circulation, University of Texas Health Science Center’s Nathan S. Bryan, Ph.D., raised concerns that a 2010 epidemiological review, “Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk of Incident Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke and Diabetes Mellitus,” by Micha et al. lacked the proper physiological perspective and context for accurate interpretation of the data. 


Micha et al, reported a weak association between red meats and coronary heart disease (CHD) and diabetes mellitus.  According to Bryan, the authors suggest that the increased risk may be due to nitrites and nitrates used as preservatives but data presented in their review indicated minimal difference in the nitrite and nitrate content of red versus processed meats, which reflected the fact that endogenous nitrogen oxides in meat or muscle exceed that added in meat processing.


In addition, Bryan pointed out that their conclusions appear to contrast the emerging cardiovascular benefits of nitrite and nitrate.  Dietary nitrite and nitrate have been shown to reduce inflammation, restore endothelial function, reduce C-reactive protein, protect from heart attack, stoke and even improve exercise performance.


“Studies such as this and others leave scientists and consumers alike confused as to what we should or should not eat. We have been told for decades to eat our vegetables. However, the large European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC Oxford) study found vegetarians had increased colon cancer risk compared to non-vegetarians, raising the specter that some dietary component in vegetarians increases risk or that meat-eating conferred decreased risk of this type of cancer.  Does this mean that we should not eat our vegetables at the risk of getting colon cancer by the same argument as Micha et al put forward?” Bryan asked.


“My point is not to discredit important epidemiological data but rather to put it in proper perspective,” Bryan concluded. “Epidemiology is an important and critical discipline to public health protection and understanding disease associations, but it alone cannot establish causation. This extensive review by Micha et al is an important area of research but we clearly need more research to clarify mechanisms and/or appropriate dietary recommendations.”


To view Bryan’s letter, click here: http://www.meatinstitute.org/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/66190


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