Popular Food Can Cause DNA to Mutate
You know hot dogs are bad for you, but when plumped up on a hot grill on a warm summer day, they taste so good. Try to resist.
Chemists from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha have determined that hot dogs may contain DNA-mutating compounds that boost the risk for cancer, reports LiveScience.com. Previous research has linked hot dogs to colon cancer. Why? Hot dogs are preserved with sodium nitrite, which in turn can help form chemicals called N-nitroso compounds. In the lab at least, most of these compounds cause cancer in animals.
And the warning isn't just limited to hot dogs. Salted dried fish and some seasonings, such as soy sauce, may contain similar levels of these DNA-mutating chemicals.
In this study, lead researcher Sidney Mirvish went to his local supermarket and purchased packages of hot dogs--the same kind we all buy. He mixed the hot dogs with nitrites and the resulting extracts appeared to be DNA-mutating compounds. Mirvish then added those hot dog extracts that had been treated with nitrites to Salmonella bacteria, which caused the DNA mutation levels to increase by two to four times. It is when these mutations are released in our stomachs that the risk for colon cancer increases.
Here's the really odd catch: The research team tested numerous brands of hot dogs and found up to a 240-fold variation in the levels of cancer-causing chemicals in the different brands. Mirvish thinks there is good news in this confusing discovery. "One could try and find out what the difference in manufacturing techniques are between the brands, and if it's decided these things are a hazard, one could change the manufacturing methods," he told LiveScience reporter Charles Q. Choi.
So should you eat hot dogs? Mirvish told LiveScience, "I won't say you shouldn't eat hot dogs." He plans to expand the experiment and feed hot dog meat to mice to see if they develop colon cancer or precancerous conditions.
Meanwhile, the American Meat Institute Foundation in Washington told LiveScience that this research is only preliminary and that the carcinogenic risk to humans of the compounds studied has not been determined.
The study findings were reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2006.
--From the Editors at Netscape