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Chemicals Used in Fertilizer and Processed Foods linked to Alzheimer's and Diabetes

A new study appearing in the July 2009 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease has found a strong link between increasing levels of nitrates and nitrites and increasing death rates from diseases associated with advancing age such as Alzheimer's, diabetes, and Parkinson's.

Nitrites and nitrates belong to a class of chemicals called nitrosamines that are created by a chemical reaction between nitrites or other proteins. They've long been shown to be harmful to both humans and animals.  Over 90% of nitrates tested have been found to cause cancer.

Nitrosamines are problematic because they become reactive at the cellular level and that means they can alter gene expression and cause DNA damage.

Nitrates are found in a staggering amount of food products, fertilizers, cosmetics and pesticides. Some foods that commonly contain nitrates include bacon, cured meats, cheese products, beer and even water.  Nitrates are also formed when food is fried or grilled, and they are present in latex and rubber.

For the study, researchers from Brown University compared the growth of the US population and the annual consumption of nitrite-containing fertilizers, annual sales at popular fast food chains, sales at a major meat processing company and annual grain consumption.

The results of the research show a dramatic increase in usage and sales for all the categories studied.  This means there has been a remarkable rise in exposure to foods packed with nitrites and nitrates over the past 50 years.

The researchers noted that the dramatic increase in Alzheimer's and other age-related diseases was observed in nearly all age groups; therefore the trend could not be due simply to the aging population.

According to lead author of the study, Suzanne de la Monte, professor of pathology and lab medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, a more likely cause for the increase is due to the fact that we have become a "nitrosamine generation."

What she means is that we are consuming a dangerous amount of amines and nitrates.  This increase is mostly due to processed foods and the seepage of nitrates into the water supply used to irrigate our crops.

Further studies will help improve our knowledge regarding the link between nitrates and age related disease and may lead to restrictions on the use of nitrites and nitrates in food processing, preservation and agriculture.

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