Does the sodium nitrate in processed meat increase my risk of heart disease?

Answers from Martha Grogan, M.D.

Sodium nitrate, a preservative that's used in some processed meats, such as bacon, jerky and luncheon meats, could increase your heart disease risk.

It's thought that sodium nitrate may damage your blood vessels, making your arteries more likely to harden and narrow, leading to heart disease. Nitrates may also affect the way your body uses sugar, making you more likely to develop diabetes.

And you already know that processed meats are high in sodium and saturated fat, which can disrupt a heart-healthy diet.

If you eat meat, it's best to limit processed meat and instead choose lean, fresh meat and poultry, and keep serving sizes small. For greater heart health, consider going one step further and increasing the amount of seafood in your diet.

Feb. 08, 2014 See more Expert Answers