The Health Effects of Nitrate, a Comprehensive (aka Very Very Long) Review of the Literature

The following is a portion of my thesis, focusing on the literature regarding the health effects of dietary nitrate:

Nitrate Consumption: A Historical Perspective

The use of salt to preserve meat has been in use as far back as 900 BC, when written records indicated Greeks produced salt for use in the curing of meat.14 Around 200 BC, Roman records make note of a reddening effect of salt on meat, which is now believed to be due to nitrate, a common contaminant in salt. Similarly, written records from near this time period in China and India indicate that saltpeter (potassium nitrate) was being used to cure meat.1 A more thorough understanding of this phenomenon appears in scientific literature in the late 20th century, when various researchers from Germany determined that not only does adding nitrate impart a redness to the meat it is added to, but this effect depends on the nitrate ion being converted into nitrite.15 Likely more valuable than the reddening effect of nitrate is its antibacterial effect when used as an additive in meat products. Although capable of inhibiting a number of pathogenic bacteria prone to infecting meat, nitrate, again following conversion to nitrite, most notably inhibits Clostridium botulinum.16 Continue reading

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