Type 2 diabetes can prove detrimental if you don’t control your blood sugar levels. The serious condition can lead to life-threatening complications, ranging from strokes to amputations. Worryingly, what you put into your body could increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, according to research.
Whether you enjoy bacon as a part of a fry-up or pair it with a sarnie, the thin processed meat is a staple of British cuisine.
Other favourites like sausages and ham are also beloved by many, often making it to the weekly shopping list. But all of these processed products have been linked to various health problems.
Now, a new study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, found that a curing agent used in these foods could raise the risk of type 2 diabetes by more than half.
The tricky ingredient in question is called nitrite and it helps to preserve meat and give it a distinctive pink colour.
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These additives were found to raise the risk of metabolic disease.
The team looked at data collected from more than 100,000 people in France who have been tracked since 2009.
The study participants enrolled voluntarily and self-reported their medical history, sociodemographic, diet, lifestyle and major health updates.
The researchers found those with a higher overall intake of nitrites – specifically from food additives – had a greater risk of developing the blood sugar condition.
However, there was no association between nitrates and type 2 diabetes risk.
In nitrates the nitrogen is bonded with three oxygen atoms, while in nitrites the nitrogen is bonded with two oxygen atoms.
Both of these are legal preservatives which suppress harmful bacteria in food products like bacon, ham, and salami.
Lead author Dr Bernard Srour, of Sorbonne Paris Nord University, said: “These results provide a new piece of evidence in the context of current discussions regarding the need for a reduction of nitrite additives’ use in processed meats by the food industry.
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“They could support the need for better regulation of soil contamination by fertilisers.
“In the meantime, several public health authorities worldwide already recommend citizens to limit their consumption of foods containing controversial additives, including sodium nitrite.”
Worryingly, research, published in the journal Nature, also found that nitrites boosted the growth of cancerous tumours in mice.
This new study represents the first effort to examine the role of the dietary additives in metabolic dysfunction and type 2 diabetes in humans.
Using detailed nitrite and nitrate exposure, derived from several databases and sources, the research team developed statistical models to analyse the information with health outcomes.
Dr Srour added: “This is the first large-scale cohort study to suggest a direct association between additives originated nitrites and type 2 diabetes risk.
“It also corroborates previously suggested associations between total dietary nitrites and type 2 diabetes risk.”
Currently, the UK government recommends limiting your consumption of processed meats to 70 grams per day.