For years we’ve heard that eating red meat, particularly processed meat, increases the risk of certain types of cancer. The claim is based on a link made in some studies between intake of nitrosamines, chemicals used in cured or preserved meat, and tumor formation. Anything containing nitrates and nitrites falls in this category — hence the recommendation to eat very little in the way of salami, sausage, bacon, hot dogs and the like.
Because these chemicals cross the blood-brain barrier, there’s been a great deal of concern that they might cause the most common form of malignant brain tumors, gilomas.
But, a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition of 238,000 men and women has shown no link between eating meats containing nitrosamines and higher risk of giloma. Researchers used data from three large ongoing health studies of U.S. doctors and nurses whose diets and lifestyle habits have been periodically surveyed for three decades.
Of the 238,000 subjects, only 335 were diagnosed with giloma at some point, and there was no connection between those diagnoses and intake of meat, processed meat, or any meat containing nitrates or nitrosamines.
Since all subjects were adults, it’s worth caveating that results don’t necessarily apply to children and adolescents, who theorteically could be at greater risk. No large-scale studies have been conducted yet to investigate the possibility.
And, of course, there are plenty of other reasons to keep sausage consumption to a minimum. A recent study indicated that obesity may be linked to brain shrinkage — and erectile dysfunction (no jokes about that being redundant).