Many Americans are so used to eating hot dogs that they don’t realize that they’re making unhealthy decisions and that those decisions are affecting them and their children.
While hot dogs have often provoked concern and sparked debate about exactly what’s in them, it hasn’t stopped the majority of Americans from consuming them.
But apparently, those concerns were well warranted.
According to a new study, kids who eat more than 12 hot dogs per month have 9 times the normal risk of developing childhood leukemia.
Moreover, two other reports in the same issue suggest that children born to mothers who consume at least one hot dog a week during pregnancy have double the normal risk of developing brain tumors, as do children whose fathers consumed hot dogs before conception.
What’s wrong with hot dogs?
The wrong thing about hot dogs is the nitrate and nitrite additives, used as preservatives, which form carcinogens in the human body. According to three different studies, consuming hot dogs can be a risk factor for childhood cancer.
Nitrites are not cancer-causing by themselves. But, during certain conditions in the body, the nitrites combine with amines that are naturally present in the meat and form by-products called N-nitroso (nitrosamines and nitrosamides), which is dangerously carcinogenic compound.
These compounds have been linked to cancer of the oral cavity, brain, urinary bladder, stomach, esophagus, and leukemia.
Although nitrites are also found in many veggies, such as spinach, celery, and green lettuce, these foods are safe to consume and even serve to lower the cancer risk. Vegetables that contain these compounds are also rich in vitamin C and vitamin D, both of which stop the formation of N-nitroso compounds.
However, not all hot dogs on the market contain nitrites. Nitrite-containing and nitrite-free hot dogs taste the same but differ in their color. Nitrite-free hot dogs are less popular due to their brownish color.
Things you can do to protect you and your children from cancer-causing nitrites
- Stay away from hot dogs containing nitrite or minimize your consumption of hot dogs to a minimum.
- Ask for nitrite-free hot dogs in the supermarket.
- Check labels carefully and avoid products that list sodium or potassium nitrates and nitrites.
- Eat a diet rich in antioxidants and vitamin C. Vitamin C is known to block the conversion of nitrates to nitrosamines.