Nitrites and Nitrosamines

by Kevin Ahern, PhD

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    Now, nitrogen compounds are very important for making amino acids and all the other molecules that I've talked about. But there are some very hazardous components of nitrogen metabolism that I need to discuss and we need to understand. These components I'll describe in the next couple of slides. And the first of these involves a fairly reactive molecule known as nitrites. Nitrites appear in our food and our made in our body from nitrites. So let's see what happens with them. Nitrite can be formed by the ionization of nitrous acid, HNO2, or by the reduction of nitrites. Nitrite is used to cure meats. Bacon for example is a preserved by treating it with nitrite. This is done to prevent botulism and it’s an acceptable use of nitrite. When it’s reduced to nitric oxide, it happens in hypoxic conditions. Production of nitric oxide is good if the cell is trying to signal it and it is bad if the cell is not trying to use to signal it. In the human diet, the most common source of nitrites is not from consuming them in meats but rather from the reduction of nitrites that appear in vegetables. And how did the nitrites get in to the vegetables? Well, two ways. One by fertilizer and one by plant stress. The hazards with nitrites are associated with its ability to form cancer causing nitrosamines. This happens in acidic conditions such as we have in our stomach. Nitrites can oxidize hemoglobin's iron and convert it from a plus two form, the ferrous form to a plus three form the ferric form. Well, when that happens within hemoglobin, that hemoglobin is nonfunctional. It will no longer be able to carry oxygen. So, consumption of a lot of nitrites or creation of a lot of...

    About the Lecture

    The lecture Nitrites and Nitrosamines by Kevin Ahern, PhD is from the course Amino Acid Metabolism.

    Included Quiz Questions

    1. They form nitrosamines in stomach acid.
    2. They are oxidized to nitric oxide in oxygen abundance.
    3. They oxidize hemoglobin’s iron to Fe++.
    4. All of the answers are true.
    5. None of the answers are true.
    1. All of the answers are true.
    2. None of the answers are true.
    3. They are produced from secondary amines.
    4. They arise from a nitrosonium ion.
    5. They are likely carcinogens in humans.

    Author of lecture Nitrites and Nitrosamines

     Kevin Ahern, PhD

    Kevin Ahern, PhD

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