- Nitrates and nitrites are compounds the body needs to function.
- In large amounts, these compounds may turn into harmful substances.
- Nitrates and nitrites in food additives can cause cancer and diabetes.
- Lower diabetes risk by avoiding processed meats like bacon.
- Diabetes may lead to ED, and ED drugs like Viagra may treat diabetes in addition to boosting erections.
Nitrates and nitrites occur naturally in the body and the foods we consume. The food industry uses nitrates and nitrates to preserve the quality and appearance of processed meats. Researchers believe that we get around 80% of our nitrates and nitrites from vegetables.
According to recent research, nitrates and nitrites increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. And diabetes can cause erectile dysfunction.
Can You Lower Diabetes Risk by Avoiding Nitrates?
Is avoiding these compounds an option at all?
The truth about nitrates and nitrites is that we don’t understand how they impact the body. They are highly controversial, as they help us maintain a healthy cardiovascular system and may even help erectile function. On the other hand, they may also cause diabetes and can harm erectile function.
What are Nitrates and Nitrites?
The difference between nitrates and nitrites is an oxygen atom. Nitrates (NO3) have three oxygen atoms, while nitrites (NO2) have two. This seemingly tiny difference is significant on the biochemical level.
Nitrates are relatively stable compounds. They only allow a handful of other substances to convert them to potentially harmful compounds. Unfortunately, some of these substances reside in our mouths and digestive systems.
Bacteria and enzymes can convert nitrates to nitrites by robbing them of their extra oxygen atom — and this is where problems can happen.
Although not harmful themselves, nitrites can turn into compounds in the body that can be harmful. The problem is complex, as nitrites can also turn into beneficial compounds, like nitric oxide.
What Is Nitric Oxide?
Nitric oxide is a signaling molecule that plays a role in erections. Viagra, a PDE5 inhibitor, increases the sensitivity of the blood vessels to nitric oxide. By helping relax the blood vessels, nitric oxide also helps the body control blood pressure.
However, in large amounts, nitric oxide can be harmful.
Many nitrosamine compounds that result from nitrite conversion can cause cancer. Theoretically, their nitrite content may explain why processed meats raise the risk of digestive tract cancers.
Nitrosamines may also increase the risk of diabetes.
Sources of Nitrates and Nitrites
Making sense of when nitrates and nitrites can hurt you and when they help your body perform its functions is not simple. The sources from which we ingest these compounds may explain a lot, however.
We get the majority of our nitrates and nitrites from vegetables. Yet vegetables protect against digestive tract cancer and other types of cancers. They also offer some protection against diabetes.
The explanation may be that vegetables do not pair nitrites with compounds that can turn them into harmful substances.
The food industry uses nitrates and nitrites to improve the look and quality of meat. These compounds lend meat a red/pink color and salty taste while preventing the growth of bacteria that can taint the meat.
Processed meat increases the risk of digestive tract cancers, and these additives may be the reason.
Researchers believe that nitrates and nitrites from animal sources are more likely to develop into harmful nitrosamines because meat also contains amines, amides, and heme iron, which help with the conversion.
A 2022 literature review found that nitrate/nitrite contamination of drinking water could cause gastric cancer. Researchers found no evidence linking the contamination to other forms of cancer, and they didn’t analyze the links between nitrates/nitrites and diabetes. The study’s authors acknowledged these limitations.
Our bodies produce nitrates and nitrites naturally. These compounds are secreted into the saliva and make their way into the digestive system, killing harmful bacteria. From the digestive system, they get into the blood, protecting against high blood pressure. From there, the body secretes them back into the saliva.
Nitrates, Nitrites, and Type 2 Diabetes
A recent study has identified links between nitrates/nitrites and type 2 diabetes risk.
Researchers looked at over 100,000 test subjects and found that:
- A high total dietary nitrite intake may cause a significant increase in type 2 diabetes risk.
- Nitrites from food additives pose an even bigger risk.
- Sodium nitrite (e250) is, perhaps, the most dangerous food additive from the perspective of diabetes.
With these findings in mind, here’s what you can do to lower diabetes risk.
- Limit processed meats. Bacon and other processed meats carry a cocktail of additives and compounds that facilitate type 2 diabetes. Processed meats all carry additives that improve their taste and appearance and may be harmful to your health.
- Keep an eye on sodium nitrite. Researchers have concluded that sodium nitrite, also known as e250, could be the strongest diabetes-causing food additive.
Despite its impressive sample size, the study has its limitations. As the first of its kind, it needs other studies to confirm its conclusions independently. The test subjects self-reported their dietary habits, and study participants may have had healthier behaviors than the general population.
Type 2 Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction
Diabetes causes circulatory issues in sufferers, in addition to many other health problems. And in men, suboptimal circulation can bring about erectile dysfunction.
Fortunately, being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes does not mean the end of your sex life. You can eat your way to better erections. By adopting a Mediterranean or DASH diet, you can bring your blood sugar under control. Limit your intake of red meat, dairy, alcohol, sugar, and processed foods. Eat more whole grains, vegetables, nuts, herbs, and fruits.
Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction Medications
By lowering your diabetes risk, you also reduce your ED risk. If you already have diabetes, however, there are solutions like Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra. These drugs are game-changers for men living with diabetes. In addition to facilitating erections, they may also treat diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity.
Erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra are PDE5 inhibitors. By blocking certain compounds in the body, they increase sensitivity to nitric oxide, which boosts blood flow to the extremities, including the penis.
At eDrugstore, we carry only FDA-approved medications for erectile dysfunction. Our U.S. licensed doctors can provide you with the prescriptions you need to buy genuine Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra, and others. Browse our medication guide to find the medication that’s right for you. When you buy from eDrugstore, virtual health visits and shipping are always free.
James spent the better part of the last decade studying and writing about the physiology of sleep and its correlations with dreams. He studied various drugs, natural substances, and hallucinogens that can impact the intensity and frequency of dreams.
For two years, he busted dietary supplement scams, analyzing various performance-enhancing compounds, nootropics, etc.