Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nitrate and human health

People are worried because of what they are told nitrate can do to them or their children. There are two(2) commonly cited ways in which nitrate is said to pose a threat to humans : blue-baby syndrome and stomach cancer.

Blue-baby syndrome

It takes a lot of nitrate to poison a baby. Even if babies were fed water with 100 ppm (parts per million) of nitrate - twice the recommended limit - they would come to no harm. So why has there been concern over nitrate and babies?

In fact nitrate has caused the deaths of babies who were fed on milk powder made up with water from wells that had very high levels of nitrate. The circumstances were rather exceptional. The babies turned blue and died because of excess nitrate.

The last case of blue-baby syndrome
in Britain was in 1972, and the baby's life was saved. (Note:Blue-baby syndrome is known as well-water methaemoglobinaemia in the USA). The last fatal case of the disease was in the 1950s. Those at risk were babies in rural areas whose feed was made with water from wells where it was later discovered the level of nitrate could be as high as 500 ppm, ten(10) times the level set by the World Health Organization.

In addition the water-from-well was contaminated with bacteria which could have exacerbated the problem by causing more nitrate to be produced in the baby's physiology intestines.

If we follow the fate of a nitrate ion when it enters the human body we can understand why babies were at risk. The nitrate itself is harmless, and most nitrate passes easily through.

It is the nitrate that undergoes a chemical change, chemistry reaction with well-water, which does the damage. Bacteria are to be blame, and these remove one of the nitrate's oxygen atoms and so turn NO3 into nitrite, NO2.

Bacteria in our gut produce about 5 mg of nitrite each day. Microbes in our mouths begin the process, which is continued in our stomach and intestines. White blood cells, which engulf and break down invading organisms, also make nitrate and nitrite.

They use the amino acid L-arginine as their source of nitrogen, and they are stimulated to make nitrate by carbohydrate from bacteria.

White blood cells are thought to produce nitrate and nitrite as inter-mediates in their production of nitric oxide. This molecule (combination of few atoms is called molecule) has several uses in human body, from relaxing muscles in our arteries to causing erections of penis in men.

It may also be used in the fight against infection. But there can be too much of a good thing, in turn cause toxins, and this is true of nitrite. This delicate balance can be easily maintained by the organicity of the nutrients and the presence of distilled water.

Human first line of defence to cope with a surplus of nitrite since it could occur quite naturally is vitamin C, which can snatch another oxygen-atom from nitrite and so convert it into nitric oxide. With this understanding, all of us, adults and babies should have many kinds of fresh fruits which are naturally come with sufficient various vitamins (vitamin C being one of them) , and minerals and natural enzymes and distilled water.

We cannot destroy all the nitrite in this way, and some escapes.It then targets certain of the human body's metals, indeed it positively seeks them out and clings to them very strongly. In our bloodstream nitrite attach to the iron atoms at the heart of haemoglobin, the molecule which carries oxygen atom from the lungs to where it is needed to generate energy.

When nitrite meets haemoglobin it blocks its active iron site and turns it into methaemoglobin. Still we need not worry because we have enzymes to deal with this, and these remove the nitrite and so free the haemoglobin.

All these things and process happen in babies as well, but in relation to their fluid intake, water, a baby's blood volume is much smaller that that of an adult. Now I hope you see the point of the water-cure protocol have to use each individual body weight (every 1 kilogram need at least 31.42 ml of water)to decide the amount of daily water-quota intake. An excess of nitrate, and the nitrite that is formed from it, will stress their metabolism much more severely. And water shortage in the baby's daily diet will worsen this condition further and faster.

Up to 2% of a normal person's blood may be in the methaemoglobin form. If the level of methaemoglobin exceeds 10% we begin to suffer, and our skin turns a blue-grey. This is what happened with some babies, and hence the name 'blue baby' for those suffering this condition.

When the level reaches 40% the baby's life is in danger,and there have been a few rare cases of bottle-fed babies dying. Boiling the water to make up a formula feed does not remove the nitrate, but concentrate it.

Breast-feeding is still the best way to nourish and protect a baby, but there is no threat to babies fed on formula foods if the level of nitrate in the water used to make them up is below 50 ppm, the legal limit. WE need nitrate-free water to put an end to all worries about blue babies, but until then, let's do our part for the babies, encouraging mother breast-feeding the nature way.

Stomach Cancer
The threat comes not from nitrate itself, which is not a cancer-forming chemical on its own, nor from nitrite which is also not a carcinogen.

The real threat comes from nitrosamines, which are a group of known potent carcinogens.Dimethylnitrosamine is the most common nitrosamine and is a powerful carcinogen. It is detectable in several foods, although levels vary :
Food (Nitrosamine/ppb, parts per billion,which is the same as millionths of a gram per kilogram )

Hot dog (0-84);
Bacon (1-60);
Smoked fish (4-26);
Fried fish (1-9);
Cheese (1-4).

Nitrosamines are extremely reactive and will attack almost any other molecule, including DNA, and this is why they are so dangerous.

Nitrosamines are very reactive molecules and the danger is that they will reach the heart of a living cell and attack the DNA. If this happen the damage has to be repaired. This is a relatively simple job for the cell, compared to damage done by more dangerous chemicals - free radicals.

If the cell's defences are overwhelmed, then the repair job may not be perfect. If this happens we have a potentially cancerous cell. Once this cell starts replicate itself, and not to be recognized as alien, we are in trouble. Fresh fruits and fresh green vegetables quickly rendered harmless by molecules such as vitamin C and E, and these also protect us against nitrosamines.

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