Nitrates and Nitrites
Manufacturers add nitrites to meat to preserve them. They’re the reason why cured meat is pink or red. In meat, nitrites turn into nitric oxide. This reacts with proteins in the meat, changing its color and helping preserve it.
Nitrates are fairly stable by themselves and not likely to cause direct harm. However, bacteria in your mouth and other enzymes in the body can convert nitrates into nitrites, and those are harmful.
Most of the nitrites we encounter aren’t consumed directly but are converted from nitrates. Nitrites can either turn into:
- nitric oxide, which is beneficial for the body
- nitrosamines, which can be harmful
The relationship between dietary nitrates/nitrites and health is a lot more complex than just saying “they’re bad for us”. For example, the high natural nitrate content of beetroot juice has been credited with lowering blood pressure and enhancing exercise performance. Nitrates are also the active ingredient in some medications for angina.
The difference between the nitrates in vegetables and meat is that the plants absorb them from the ground while for meats it is an additive.
When the nitrites are ingested, one of the things that happen is they react in the acidic environment of the stomach and form nitrosamines.
- Nitrosamines are considered to be cancerous and linked to bowel cancer
For this to occur amines need to be present, chemicals related to ammonia that are found abundantly in protein foods. Nitrosamines can also be created directly in foods through high-heat cooking, as with fried bacon.
Nitrites and cancer link
A total of 22 articles consisting of 49 studies—19 studies for nitrates, 19 studies for nitrites, and 11 studies for N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA)
- High nitrates intake was associated with a weak but statistically significant reduced risk of gastric cancer. Whereas increased consumption of nitrites and NDMA seemed to be risk factors for cancer.
According to the IARC, International Agency for Research on Cancer, run by WHO states:
Nitrates or nitrites found primarily in meat sources are probably carcinogenic to humans, conclusions from epidemiologic studies are somewhat mixed. High nitrate intake may be associated with a decreased risk of gastric cancer, whereas nitrite intake may increase the risk of glioma and thyroid and gastric cancers
The North American Meat Institute
“…Nitrates and Nitrites provide a critical food safety function by helping to prevent Botulism and other foodborne illnesses.”
What is NMN
NMN is short for nicotinamide mononucleotide, a molecule naturally occurring in all life forms. NMN is the precursor of the essential molecule nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+).
NAD+ is an essential coenzyme required for all cellular life and function. Coenzymes are ‘helper’ molecules that enzymes need in order to function.
Why is NAD and MNM Important
As organisms grow older, they accrue DNA damage due to environmental factors such as radiation, pollution, and imprecise DNA replication. According to the current aging theory, the accumulation of DNA damage is the main cause of aging. Almost all cells contain the ‘molecular machinery’ to repair this damage. This machinery consumes NAD+ and energy molecules. Therefore, excessive DNA damage can drain valuable cellular resources.
- One important DNA repair protein, PARP (Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase), depends on NAD+ to function. Older individuals experience decreased levels of NAD+. The accumulation of DNA damage as a result of the normal aging process leads to increased PARP, which causes decreased NAD+ concentration. This depletion is exacerbated by any further DNA damage in the mitochondria.
NAD+ plays an especially active role in metabolic processes, such as glycolysis, the TCA Cycle (AKA Krebs Cycle or Citric Acid cycle), and the electron transport chain, which occurs in our mitochondria and is how we obtain cellular energy.
NAD has been shown to effects many parts and functions of our body. Research is currently looking at the potential effects NAD might have on human health and lifespan.
Potential for NAD
- NAD+ is the fuel that helps sirtuins (Sirtuins play a key role in regulating cellular homeostasis) sustain genome integrity and promote DNA repair. Like a car cannot drive without fuel, sirtuins’ activation requires NAD+. Results from animal studies showed that raising NAD+ levels in the body activates sirtuins and increases the lifespans of yeast, worms and mice. Although animal studies showed promising results in anti-aging properties, scientists are still studying how these results can translate to humans.
- NAD+ is one of the keys to maintaining healthy mitochondrial functions and steady energy output. Aging and a high-fat diet reduce the level of NAD+ in the body. Studies have shown that taking NAD+ boosters can alleviate diet-associated and age-associated weight gain in mice and improve their exercise capacity, even in aged mice. Other studies even reversed the diabetes effect in female mice, showing new strategies to fight metabolic disorders, such as obesity.
- Boosting NAD+ levels protects the heart and improves cardiac functions. High blood pressure can cause an enlarged heart and blocked arteries that lead to strokes. In mice, NAD+ boosters have replenished NAD+ levels in the heart and prevented injuries to the heart caused by a lack of blood flow. Other studies have shown that NAD+ boosters can protect mice from abnormal heart enlargement.
- In mice with Alzheimer’s, raising the NAD+ level can decrease protein build up that disrupts cell communication in the brain to increase cognitive function. Boosting NAD+ levels also protects brain cells from dying when there’s insufficient blood flow to the brain. Many studies in animal models present new prospects of helping the brain age healthily, defending against neurodegeneration, and improving memory.
- As adults get older the immune system declines, people get ill more easily, and it becomes harder for people to bounce back from illnesses such as the seasonal flu, or even COVID-19. Recent studies have suggested that NAD+ levels play an important role in regulating inflammation and cell survival during the immune response and aging. The study underscored the therapeutic potential of NAD+ for immune dysfunction.
Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) + hydrogen (H) is used as a supplement as well. NADH is used for improving mental clarity, alertness, concentration, and memory; as well as for treating Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Because of its role in energy production, NADH is also used for improving athletic performance and treating chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Unfortunately, there isn’t enough evidence to know whether the supplementation works.