August 24, 2009
EAST LANSING, Mich.New research from Michigan State University suggests that although there are negative health effects associated with the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers and excessive nitrates in groundwater, nitrates and nitritesas they occur in plantsactually may provide health benefits.
Nitrate and nitrite are naturally occurring ions associated with the nitrogen cycle in soil and water. They are regulated in water and certain foods by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because they have been associated with gastrointestinal cancer, blood disorders in infants and other health problems. The World Health Organization (WHO) established a standard of 222 milligrams per day as an acceptable daily nitrate intake.
Most of the concern with these compounds relates to their presence in drinking water from shallow wells near farms and the consumption of processed meats. In most diets, between 70 percent and 80 percent of the nitrates comes from vegetables, government and research sources said.
We and others have shown that components of vegetables and fruit that originate in the soil may function as nutrients by contributing to cardiovascular health, said Norman Hord, associate professor of food science and human nutrition. Since these components of plant foods have important health implications, the regulatory limits on the consumption of plant foods that contain nitrates and nitrites need to be seriously reconsidered.
We wanted to show the toxicity risk cited as the basis for federal regulatory levels for nitrate and nitrite are irrational because plant foods contain high concentrations of these food components, he said. People consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables may be ingesting much more nitrate and nitrite than recommendedmore than 1,000 milligramswith no adverse health effects. Were calling for a systematic re-evaluation of the literature to highlight the potential beneficial contributions that nitrates and nitrites from vegetables and fruits make to cardiovascular health.
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