A new study has found a link between the consumption of nitrites from drinking water and food and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Nitrates and nitrates are found naturally in water and soil and are used as food preservatives to extend shelf life. The research was led by Bernard Srour and published in the journal OLP Medicine.
Some public health officials have suggested restricting nitrites and nitrates as food additives, however, their effect on metabolic problems and type 2 diabetes in humans is unexplored. To study the connection, the researchers used data from 104,168 participants from the prospective NutriNet-Santé cohort.
The NutriNet-Santé Study is an ongoing, web-based cohort study launched in 2009. Participants aged fifteen and older voluntarily enroll and self-report their medical history, socio-demographics, diet, lifestyle lifestyle and major health updates. Researchers used detailed nitrite/nitrate exposure, derived from multiple databases and sources, and then developed statistical models to analyze self-reported dietary information with health outcomes.
Researchers found that participants in the NutriNet-Santé cohort reporting higher intake of nitrites overall and specifically from food additives, and non-additive sources had a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. There was no association between nitrates and the risk of type 2 diabetes, and the results did not support any potential benefits of nitrites or dietary nitrates in protecting against type 2 diabetes.
The study had several limitations and further research is needed to validate the results. Data were self-reported and researchers could not confirm specific nitrite/nitrate exposure using biomarkers due to underlying biological challenges. Also, the demographics and behaviors of people in the cohort may not be generalizable to the rest of the population – the cohort included more younger people, more often women, who exhibited healthier behaviors. Residual confounding may also have impacted the results due to the observational design of the study.
According to the authors, “These results provide new evidence in the context of current discussions regarding the need for a reduction in the use of nitrite additives in processed meats by the food industry and may support the need for a better regulation of soil contamination by fertilizers. In the meantime, several public health authorities around the world are already recommending that citizens limit their consumption of foods containing controversial additives, including sodium nitrite”.
Srour and Touvier add, “This is the first large-scale cohort study to suggest a direct association between nitrite of additive origin and the risk of type 2 diabetes. total dietary intake and the risk of T2D.
Reference: “Dietary exposure to nitrites and nitrates in association with type 2 diabetes risk: Results from the NutriNet-Santé population-based cohort study” by Bernard Srour, Eloi Chazelas, Nathalie Druesne-Pecollo, Younes Esseddik, Fabien Szabo de Edelenyi, Cédric Agaësse, Alexandre De Sa, Rebecca Lutchia, Charlotte Debras, Laury Sellem, Inge Huybrechts, Chantal Julia, Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot, Benjamin Allès, Pilar Galan, Serge Hercberg, Fabrice Pierre, Mélanie Deschasaux-Tanguy and Mathilde Touvier, 17 January 2023, OLP Medicine.