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Curing foods with raisins, not sodium nitrite: COPD patients and deli meats

You may wish to see the March 7, 2012 news release, "Excessive cured meat consumption increases risk of hospital readmissions for COPD patients." An excessive intake of cured meats, such as salami, chorizo and bacon, can increase readmission to hospital for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a study by Spanish researchers from the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) in Barcelona. It would be healthier to simply cure meats with raisins than with sodium nitrite.

Curing foods with raisins, not sodium nitrite: COPD patients health issues with some deli meats.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The research, "Cured meat consumption increases risk of readmission in COPD patients," now in print, also appears online in the European Respiratory Journal since March 8, 2012. Previous research has shown a link between the intake of cured meats and the risk of developing COPD. However, this study is the first to show the effects of cured meat consumption on the progression of the disease. Wouldn't it be easier to cure meat with raisins, if you must eat cured meats?

California raisins may soon be starring in a new role: Keeping beef jerky tasty, more nutritious and safe. Food science researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) have determined that raisins are a great substitute for sodium nitrite, a preservative commonly used in beef jerky. Mark Daeschel, an OSU food scientist, is a specialist in natural "antimicrobials" - natural substances added to food that inhibit the growth of harmful microorganisms.

You may wish to see the May 9, 2003 news release, "Raisins may find use in jerky." He and OSU research assistants Karl Schilke and Cindy Bower have completed research indicating that ground up raisins work just as well as the preservative sodium nitrite, typically used as a processed meat preservative by the food industry, the news release explains. Raisins can cure meat in healthier ways than nitrites.

Raisins in your jerky soup, all of them doing loop-de-loop? Raisins instead of sodium nitrite or other preservatives may be the way to go. Sacramento's famous California raisins may be starring in a new role: keeping beef jerky tasty, more nutritious and safe, according to a new study from Oregon State University. You don't need to use sodium nitrite to preserve your jerky. You can use raisins instead.

When you put raisins into your jerky, one result is that there's less fat in the jerky. You now have more fiber and more antioxidants that you'd have just by using sodium nitrite as a preservative in the jerky. Also with the latest news about contaminated jerky made with imported ingredients, maybe it's time to make your own jerky for humans or pets.

Dogs and meat jerky treat problems

Check out, "New Surge in Dog Deaths From Pet Jerky From China, FDA." You could use raisins as a preservative for making jerky for human consumption, for your family. But raisins/grapes are toxic to your dog. See, "Grape and Raisin Toxicity in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospitals." So don't use grapes or raisins in dog food or treats.

As far as preservatives used in making jerky for humans, food science researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) have determined that raisins are a great substitute for sodium nitrite, a preservative commonly used in beef jerky. Mark Daeschel, an Oregon State University (OSU) food scientist, is a specialist in natural "antimicrobials" - natural substances added to food that inhibit the growth of harmful microorganisms.

Sodium nitrite has been found to break down into cancer-causing chemicals during digestion

He and OSU research assistants Karl Schilke and Cindy Bower have completed research indicating that ground up raisins work just as well as the preservative sodium nitrite, typically used as a processed meat preservative by the food industry, according to a May 9, 2003 news release, "Raisins may find use in jerky." The research results was published in a 2003 issue of the Journal of Food Science. Also see the abstract of another study on using raisins to preserve foods such as bread, in this other, later study, "Application of Raisin Extracts as Preservatives in Liquid Bread and Bread Systems."

In the raisins used as a preservative for making jerky study, it's noteworthy that raisins can kill some bacteria. "Raisins performed as an antimicrobial at least as well as sodium nitrite in jerky," said Daeschel, according to the May 9, 2003 news release, "Raisins may find use in jerky." Sodium nitrite has been found to break down into cancer-causing chemicals during digestion. In addition inhibiting bacterial growth, raisins bring multiple nutritional benefits to jerky over jerky made with typical preservatives.

Daeschel and his colleagues found that adding raisins to jerky inhibited bacterial growth, especially the types prevalent in food borne illness: E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes

"First, when you add raisins to jerky, it means there is less fat in the jerky," he said in the news release. "Plus, raisins are high in antioxidants and have lots of fiber. Consumers are looking for all these characteristics - low fat, high fiber and antioxidants."

Raisin additives may be of benefit especially to those on sodium-restricted diets, he said. "Traditionally, high sodium foods such as beef jerky are restricted for patients on low salt diets," he said. "The substitution of raisins for a high nitrite curing mix may make beef jerky accessible to these people again." Why do raisins work so well as a preservative in jerky?

Raisins are high in sugar and acidic which helps to inhibit the growth of microbes in the food

Raisins are high in sugar, which inhibits microbial growth associated with spoiled food and food borne illness, explained Daeschel in the news release. "The sugar makes the water in food less available to microbes." And raisins are acidic, which also discourages microbes.

With a grant from the California Raisin Board, Daeschel and his colleagues in OSU's Department of Food Science and Technology evaluated the taste, texture, antioxidant potential and antimicrobial properties of jerky made with ground beef. They compared these properties of the raisin jerky to typical commercial-type jerky made with sodium nitrite and jerky made without any preservatives.

In blind taste tests, a scientific panel in OSU's Sensory Research Laboratory in Corvallis evaluated the three types of jerky for flavor, texture, chewiness, overall liking and appearance

"Panelists ranked the 10 percent raisin jerky as superior to the nitrite control in terms of overall liking, flavor, texture, and appearance," said Daeschel in the news release. "They said sweet and tangy flavor imparted by the raisins was pleasing and that it made the jerky seem less salty."

Why did he use raisins?

"The raisin industry is always looking for new uses for its product," he explained in the news release. "We tried to come up with some type of food product whose flavor would be compatible with raisins. Then we came up with beef jerky. It's sweet and sour.

"Raisins have showed us they offer multiple benefits as an additive," added Daeschel in the news release. "People liked the texture and flavor, they inhibited bacterial growth and added nutrition. Plus raisins can be used in place of more harmful preservatives. Another benefit is that the high antioxidant levels in raisins may decrease off-flavors associated with oxidation or rancidity. We'd like to investigate that next." Daeschel thinks that raisins may also prove valuable in vegetarian products such as meatless burgers and sausage.

Where sodium nitrite is used to poison unwanted wild pigs

The chemical used to cure bacon, beef jerky, some hot dogs, and various types of deli meats, sodium nitrite, has been approved as a poison to use to dispatch wild pigs that eat food from people's yards and farms, according to the June 21, 2014 Associated Press article, "USDA testing sodium nitrite to poison feral hogs, which do $800M damage a year to US farms." Currently, sodium nitrite is being tested as poisonous bait put in traps to do away with wild pigs.

Scientists say sodium nitrite is far more toxic to pigs than people. The poison is used in Australia and New Zealand to kill feral swine. USDA scientists say it may be the best way to get rid of wild boars in the U.S., but they're not yet ready to ask for federal approval as pig poison.

Hunting and trapping won't get rid of the wild pigs, say farmers and some scientists, because the wild pigs breed too prolifically. The news is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture now has started a $20 million program this year to control feral swine, which have spread from 17 states in 1982 to 39 this year.

Other animals are being poisoned by the bait

First the researchers have to cook up a type of bait that contains enough sodium nitrite to make a lethal dose for the wild pigs. The taste of sodium nitrite is bad, and the pigs won't take to the salty, bitter taste very much. Second, the sodium nitrate breaks down in the air or water. The pigs can sniff it out, and like any other animal, will tend to avoid the poison because it tastes bad.

To outsmart the pig's taste and nose, the sodium nitrite, as a powder is put in a micro capsule to hid the smell, taste, and keep it stable. But another problem is other animals break into the bait dispenser. So the researchers have to build a bait dispenser that only pigs can access. Racoons already have eaten the bait from the dispenser in the test stage. What next, a bear, or a domestic animal, or someone's pet? For more information, you may check out, "QA sodium nitrite - Environmental Protection Authority."

You also may wish to read in the article, "'HOG‑GONE®' and how - Feral.org.au," about how sodium nitrite is used to kill wild pigs there. Before the sodium nitrite, the wild pigs in Australia were dispatched with warfarin, the same chemical given to humans to thin their blood if they have specific health problems such as the tendency to form blood clots or hardened arteries and too-thick blood.

See, "New feral pig toxins, baits and delivery systems « Invasive Animals." As far as wild pigs as a nuisance to farmers, the domestic pigs are bringing in money. It's noteworthy to contemplate how many poisons also are given to humans in specific amounts as prescription medicines rather than focusing on changes in diet. You may wish to see, "Native non-target sensitivity testing and humaneness testing of a new feral pig toxicant.

Are humans eating too much sodium nitrite in processed deli-type meats or bacon?

Is there a connection between the amount of nitrates in farming soil and diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and diabetes mellitus? Scientists are studying environmental links to these diseases through nitrates in the soil where vegetables and fruits are grown. And how many nitrates are in Sacramento's farming soil, if any? Are these nitrates, perhaps coming from various fertilizers?

Researchers found strong parallels between age adjusted increases in death rate from Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, and the progressive increases in human exposure to nitrates, nitrites and nitrosamines through processed or preserved foods as well as fertilizers.

There's also an environmental link to Alzheimer's, say scientists

Have you ever wondered what the effects of eating bacon, hot dogs, and other deli meats cured with nitrites has on your health if you've been eating these foods almost all your life? In Providence, Rhode Island, a new study published in July 2009 by researchers at Rhode Island Hospital has found a substantial link between increased levels of nitrates in our environment and food with increased deaths from diseases, including Alzheimer's, diabetes mellitus and Parkinson's.

The study, "Epidemilogical Trends Strongly Suggest Exposures as Etiologic Agents in the Pathogenesis of Sporadic Alzheimer's Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, and Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis," is published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, (July 2009) pp 519-529. Researchers in the study are: de la Monte, Suzanne M., Alexander Neusner, Jennifer Chu and Margot Lawton.

Low levels of nitrosamine exposure cause neurodegeneration, NASH, and diabetes, notes the study

You also may wish to take a look at the abstract of another study, "Nitrosamine exposure causes insulin resistance diseases: relevance to type 2 diabetes mellitus, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, and Alzheimer's disease," appearing in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 2009. In the Rhode Island Hospital study, researchers have found possible environmental causes for Alzheimer's and diabetes. Scientists are calling for a reduction of nitrate levels in fertilizer and water, and also detoxifying tap water and food from common environmental toxins, including reducing the nitrosamines in preserved foods.

The build-up of plaque from beta-amyloid deposits is associated with an increase in brain cell damage and death from oxidative stress. This is related to a loss of cognitive function and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, which currently affects over 13 million people worldwide.

Researchers have found a link between increased exposure to fertilizer, processed foods and increased deaths associated with insulin-resistant diseases

We have become a "nitrosamine generation" receiving increased exposure to dangerous compounds, which pose a threat at low levels of exposure. The prevalence rates of these diseases have increased exponentially over the past several decades and show no sign of plateau.

In the Rhode Island Hospital research, led by Suzanne de la Monte, MD, MPH, of Rhode Island Hospital, researchers studied the trends in mortality rates due to diseases that are associated with aging, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes and cerebrovascular disease, as well as HIV.

Other diseases including HIV-AIDS, cerebrovascular disease, and leukemia did not exhibit those trends. de la Monte and the authors propose that the increase in exposure plays a critical role in the cause, development and effects of the pandemic of these insulin-resistant diseases.

de la Monte, who is also a professor of pathology and lab medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, says, “We have become a 'nitrosamine generation'"

In essence, we have moved to a diet that is rich in amines and nitrates, which lead to increased nitrosamine production. We receive increased exposure through the abundant use of nitrate-containing fertilizers for agriculture.”

She continues, according to the news release, "Not only do we consume them in processed foods, but they get into our food supply by leeching from the soil and contaminating water supplies used for crop irrigation, food processing and drinking."

Nitrites and nitrates belong to a class of chemical compounds that have been found to be harmful to humans and animals: More than 90 percent of these compounds that have been tested have been determined to be carcinogenic in various organs

Nitrites are found in many food products, including fried bacon, cured meats and cheese products as well as beer and water. Exposure also occurs through manufacturing and processing of rubber and latex products, as well as fertilizers, pesticides and cosmetics.

Nitrosamines are formed by a chemical reaction between nitrites or other proteins. Sodium nitrite is deliberately added to meat and fish to prevent toxin production. It's also used to preserve, color and flavor meats. Ground beef, cured meats and bacon in particular contain abundant amounts of amines due to their high protein content.

Sodium nitrite is added to meat and fish to prevent toxin production

Because of the significant levels of added nitrates and nitrites, nitrosamines are nearly always detectable in these foods. Nitrosamines are also easily generated under strong acid conditions, such as in the stomach, or at high temperatures associated with frying or flame broiling. Reducing sodium nitrite content reduces nitrosamine formation in foods.

Nitrosamines basically become highly reactive at the cellular level, which then alters gene expression and causes DNA damage. The researchers note that the role of nitrosamines has been well-studied, and their role as a carcinogen has been fully documented. The investigators propose that the cellular alterations that occur as a result of nitrosamine exposure are fundamentally similar to those that occur with aging, as well as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

de la Monte comments, according to the July 5, 2009 news release, Researchers find possible environmental causes for Alzheimer's, diabetes, "All of these diseases are associated with increased insulin resistance and DNA damage. Their prevalence rates have all increased radically over the past several decades and show no sign of plateau. Because there has been a relatively short time interval associated with the dramatic shift in disease incidence and prevalence rates, we believe this is due to exposure-related rather than genetic etiologies."

The researchers recognize that an increase in death rates is anticipated in higher age groups. Yet when the researchers compared mortality from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease among 75 to 84 year olds from 1968 to 2005, the death rates increased much more dramatically than for cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disease, which are also aging-associated.

Are people exposed to an increase in toxins in their cured foods that comes from the curing process?

For example, in Alzheimer’s patients, the death rate increased 150-fold, from 0 deaths to more than 150 deaths per 100,000. Parkinson’s disease death rates also increased across all age groups. However, mortality rates from cerebrovascular disease in the same age group declined, even though this is a disease associated with aging as well.

de la Monte notes, according to the news release, "Because of the similar trending in nearly all age groups within each disease category, this indicates that these overall trends are not due to an aging population. This relatively short time interval for such dramatic increases in death rates associated with these diseases is more consistent with exposure-related causes rather than genetic changes.” She also comments, "Moreover, the strikingly higher and climbing mortality rates in older age brackets suggest that aging and/or longer durations of exposure have greater impacts on progression and severity of these diseases."

The researchers graphed and analyzed mortality rates, and compared them with increasing age for each disease

They then studied United States population growth, annual use and consumption of nitrite-containing fertilizers, annual sales at popular fast food chains, and sales for a major meat processing company, as well as consumption of grain and consumption of watermelon and cantaloupe (the melons were used as a control since they are not typically associated with nitrate or nitrite exposure).

The findings indicate that while nitrogen-containing fertilizer consumption increased by 230 percent between 1955 and 2005, its usage doubled between 1960 and 1980, which just precedes the insulin-resistant epidemics the researchers found. They also found that sales from the fast food chain and the meat processing company increased more than 8-fold from 1970 to 2005, and grain consumption increased 5-fold.

The authors state that the time course of the increased prevalence rates of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes cannot be explained on the basis of gene mutations

They instead mirror the classical trends of exposure-related disease. Because nitrosamines produce biochemical changes within cells and tissues, it is conceivable that chronic exposure to low levels of nitrites and nitrosamines through processed foods, water and fertilizers is responsible for the current epidemics of these diseases and the increasing mortality rates associated with them.

de la Monte states, according to the news release, "If this hypothesis is correct, potential solutions include eliminating the use of nitrites and nitrates in food processing, preservation and agriculture; taking steps to prevent the formation of nitrosamines and employing safe and effective measures to detoxify food and water before human consumption."

Other researchers involved in the study with de la Monte include Alexander Neusner, Jennifer Chu and Margot Lawton, from the departments of pathology, neurology and medicine at Rhode Island Hospital and The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. The National Institutes of Health funded the study from grants. Two subsequent papers have been published that demonstrate experimentally that low levels of nitrosamine exposure cause neurodegeneration, NASH and diabetes. So if farmers are poisoning pigs with nitrates, why are various meats still cured with sodium nitrite when curing could take place with dried fruit--such as raisins?