Hotdog is no doubt one of America’s most popular fast foods. A survey conducted from 2011 to 2014 involving 24,000 American adults showed that over 80% individuals consumed frankfurters and hotdogs throughout the year. Another survey also found that Americans purchase 350 million pounds (or 9 billion) of hot dogs in retail stores. Ninety five percent of these hot dogs are served in homes, 15 percent are purchased from street vendors, and 9 percent from ballparks.

This leads us into asking: what’s in hotdog that people like it so much?

Well, this favorite ballpark food is made of cured and cooked sausages consist mainly of beef, chicken and pork. Other ingredients include spices, curing agents, salt, garlic, and more.

Sounds healthy, but here’s something you might not want to hear about. Hot dog is laden with cancer-causing nitrates and torrents of chemicals that were added to the meat and meat by-products to make them safe and palatable.

How the Nitrates in Hot Dogs Increase Your Risk to Cancer

In 2009, the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) issued a report about the cancer risk associated with hotdog consumption. The report was based on over 7,000 scientific studies conducted on hotdog and other processed meat products. The AICR determined that for every 50 grams of processed meat you consume daily, your risk to colorectal cancer is raised by 21 percent.

And the main culprit? Nitrates.

Nitrate additives are added in hotdogs to improve their color and extend their shelf life. Once digested, they form into nitrosamines, which are linked to cancer in test animals.

These hotdogs could be screaming cancer
These hotdogs could be screaming cancer

Aren’t some vegetables also have nitrates? Yes, nitrates are naturally occurring in some vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce, celery and most leafy greens. They are, in fact, a precursor to nitric oxide, which helps regulate blood pressure and is anti-inflammatory. However, when exposed to heat and combined with amines in processed meats, nitrates form nitrosamines. These chemical byproducts are highly carcinogenic and can inflict cellular damage. They are linked to cancer of the colon, bladder, stomach and pancreas.

To reduce this risk, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires hot-dog makers to add antioxidants in their products, particularly vitamin C.

Vitamin C can inhibit nitrosamine formation. Most leafy greens are rich in them, which is why the nitrates in vegetables are not harmful to health compared to those in hot dogs.

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