Famous hams of Spain-the free-range, acorn fed Iberico.



If you walk into any grocery store, specialty boutique or even a place like Dean and Deluca’s you will encounter nitrite treated meats when you buy any red appearing deli meat, sausage or smoked product. It’s pretty much unavoidable unless you shop in a health food store and you see on the label “uncured.” This is yet another example of disconnect. There are scores of doctors out there warning us of the hazards these additives cause but most people either don’t care, think it’s not as serious as this “kook” claims or are too wrapped up in their stress-world to care. Celebrity chefs could go a long way in helping people to be cognizant of  nitrites since they can reach as many people as Dr Oz could. Purveyors should be aware of the harm these substances can do and try to offer nitrite free alternatives. These substances are not benign additives by any means.


Industry seems to imply that before nitrites were used all sausage, ham, and smoked deli meats tasted like garbage. That holds true for the world famous hams of Spain and Italy which have been prized for millennia. I find it a little hard to believe that we need nitrites in this topsy-turvy, crazy, mixed up henhouse for a world. I would argue that it’s just the opposite.

Travel back in time and witness your galleon or further back, your trireme sailing into some Italian or Spanish port. The sights and smells are all familiar to you as you head to your favorite tavern. Starting in on the ham you immediately notice how real it tastes without all of the synthetic chemicals, dyes and preservatives. Much better than the present formulation using CAFO pork fattened with that famous growth chemical patented by Shell Oil.

Now regrettably even the famous hams of Italy like Prosciutto di Parma with its roots going back to 100BC, when a salt-cured ham was mentioned in the writings of Cato, Prosciutto has a long and hallowed history in the Parma province. Or take Tuscan Prosciutto Crudo with the unmistakable fragrances of rural Tuscany. Both of these are family favorites. The lofty Spanish Andalusia Serrano and acorn fed Iberico hams have been pleasing discerning palates for centuries. I had the opportunity to try both of these the last time I was in Europe at Fortnum and Mason’s deli counter in London. Of course all are soaked in nitrites now so we have no real way to compare them in this age of synthetics. However, I am seeing some great changes just the other day at one of my favorite Italian markets in Milwaukee they were featuring numerous organic and uncured hams and salami all from Italy! Yipeee.


What exactly do nitrates do and why are they used? First off Timmy it’s nitrite that causes all of the problems. Sodium nitrate is a naturally occurring salt used in curing. During the curing process sodium nitrate converts to sodium nitrite. On the label you may see either name or a combination of the two.

Nitrite in meat greatly delays development of botulinal (sic) toxin (botulism), develops cured meat flavor and color, retards development of rancidity and off-odors and off-flavors during storage, inhibits development of warmed-over flavor, and preserves flavors of spices, smoke, etc.

Sodium nitrite, rather than sodium nitrate, is most commonly used for curing (although in some products, such as country ham, sodium nitrate is used because of the long aging period). In a series of normal reactions, nitrite is converted to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide combines with myoglobin, the pigment responsible for the natural red color of uncured meat. They form nitric oxide myoglobin, which is a deep red color (as in uncooked dry sausage) that changes to the characteristic bright pink normally associated with cured and smoked meat (such as wieners and ham) when heated during the smoking process.[1]

According to the University of Minnesota Extension, vegetables actually account for 90 percent of nitrate intake. Leafy and root vegetables like spinach, beets, radishes, celery and cabbage naturally contain high levels of nitrates that partly convert to nitrites in digestion.[2] Nitrates in vegetables are generally not a concern for adults however and do not pose a cancer risk apparently.


In a letter (from the Prevent Cancer Coalition or PCC) to the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, entitled: Citizen Petition Seeking Labeling of Nitrate-Preserved Hot Dogs for Childhood Cancer Risk. (April 25, 1995) which apparently did nothing to change the status quo, provides ample evidence of the cancer inducing properties of nitrosamines which are the chemicals formed in the gut when a person ingests nitrate containing meats. The letter requests the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to label hot dogs that contain nitrites with a cancer risk warning.

The PCC goes on to list the evidence below: [3]

Nitrates combine with amines in the gut from protein digestion to form nitrosamines which have been found to be carcinogenic. There is overwhelming evidence of carcinogenicity in animal experiments. Epidemiologic studies found nitrosamines are associated with cancers of the oral cavity, urinary bladder, esophagus, stomach and brain.

Substantial risk exists for childhood cancers from the consumption of nitrates as well as pregnant mothers eating nitrate cured meats. Eating many hot dogs by children, as well maternal hot dog consumption during pregnancy, has been shown to be associated with brain cancer and leukemia in children.

Another study found that out of 53 foods and drinks including alcohol only hot dogs were associated with childhood brain tumors. Another study of 234 children in Denver found a strong association between hot dog consumption and brain cancer.

Mothers who ate one or more hot dogs per week during pregnancy doubled their risk of their newborn developing a brain tumor.

Furthermore children who ate hot dogs and subsequently took no vitamins (particularly vitamin C which helps prevent nitrosamines in the gut from forming) were more strongly associated with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and brain cancer.

Peters, et al. found that children who ate 12 or more hot dogs per month had approximately nine times the normal risk for developing childhood leukemia. Interestingly, a strong risk for childhood leukemia also existed for those children whose fathers’ intake of hot dogs was 12 or more per month.

These findings are of particular significance considering a 38 percent increase in the incidence of brain and nervous system cancers in children from 1973-1991. Brain tumors account for about one in five childhood cancers.

Two studies both published in 2009 showed that nitrates found in processed foods plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance diseases namely: diabetes type 2, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and Alzheimer’s neurodegeneration. [4] [5]

Yet another study claims an increase in pancreatic cancer. The list goes on.

In health food stores you can get uncured salami, pepperoni, and hot dogs. It doesn’t seem that nitrates have to be in there since I don’t taste any difference. In fact, if all manufactures switched I could go back to eating some of those famous hams from Spain and Italy and I’ll bet they would taste better without that chemical in them especially if they were not fed garbage like the rendered “things” we talked about earlier that I can’t stop thinking about.

Until then however I am steering clear. It’s just not worth it. Incidentally, if you take a baby aspirin a day it will cut down your chances of getting colorectal cancer by about a third. Also if you take a couple grams of vitamin C before you eat cured meat it should protect you or at least help protect you by preventing those potent carcinogens from forming in your stomach and small bowel.

Mini Mental Status Exam: Do we really need to die or kill our children in order that we have pink meat? Correct answer: no. Incorrect answer: what do you mean?



[4] Tong M, et al Nitrosamine exposure causes insulin resistance diseases: relevance to type 2 diabetes mellitus, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

J Alzheimers Dis. 2009;17(4):827-44. ( 05/24/2012

[5]  de la Monte SM, Tong M. Nitrosamine exposure exacerbates high fat diet-mediated type 2 diabetes mellitus, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, and neurodegeneration with cognitive impairment.

Mol Neurodegener. 2009 Dec 24;4:54. ( 05/24/2012



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Category: CAFO, Cured meats, Nitrites Nitrates

About the Author ()

Dr. Christopher Rasmussen (aka Reality Renegade) is the author of his upcoming book, "InflaNATION: Industrial Diners & A Doc In The Box." By deliberately avoiding harmful industrial foods and the Commercial Sick Care System with its Pills and Procedures paradigm, Dr Rasmussen cured himself of a deadly disease-which became the reason for writing this book. In the book, he provides the facts you must know and the solutions to regain your health, maintain wellness, and outlive your parents' generation in an extraordinarily toxic world.

Comments (6)

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  1. Bob says:

    Very interesting Dr C . !! Look fwd to more excerpts. Hope storms staying far east of you – pretty wild stuff going down back there in the mysterious East !! Stay safe friend…

    Bob Downing

    • Finch says:

      Taking the oevrievw, this post is first class

      • Christopher Rasmussen MD, MS (aka "Reality Renegade") says:

        Hello and thank you for the favorable comment. My goal is to provide fully documented truth without an agenda and strategies to countermand those “things” we find are harming us. For those people who have become lost in a sea of disinformation and because of that have become ill either mentally or physically. I am in the middle of my book project but you will get weekly bits from each chapter as we go along.
        Right now I just started my five part series on cell phones. Check it out and let me know what you think. Comments are greatly appreciated so I can make a better book in the end. Also please sign up for personal delivery of blogs once a week and for a big discount when the book appears in print!

  2. Melissa says:


    I am curious, you mention “Nitrates in vegetables are generally not a concern for adults however and do not pose a cancer risk apparently.” Do you know why this is the case if they too convert to nitrites? Also, what are your thoughts out the use of celery juice for curing? I have heard that this is more dangerous than sodium nitrate. True? Avoid both? Thanks for the information!

    • Christopher Rasmussen MD, MS (aka "Reality Renegade") says:

      It may be that veggie sourced nitrates are simply far too diluted to harm you since I am not aware of any increases in GI cancers from eating excessive amounts of vegetables. It’s quite the opposite. Keep in mind that some veggies like yellow and orange bell peppers contain vitamin C which helps prevent the formation of deadly nitrosamines in the gut. Not up on celery juice as a curative sorry. I had also seen celery juice used to decrease blood pressure in one patient with varying degrees of success.

    • Mickey says:

      Glad I’ve finally found sohnmtieg I agree with!

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