Nitrate and Man: Toxic, Harmless or Beneficial?

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Nitrate is ubiquitous. It is present in water, soil, plants and food, and is also a normal human metabolite. The main external sources of nitrate are vegetables and drinking water. This book examines the relationship between nitrates and human health.

During the last 50 years or so, nitrate has been feared as the source of the rare condition called methaemoglobinaemia, or “blue baby syndrome”, for young infants. Nitrate has also been implicated with causing cancer, through increased formation of carcinogenic compounds. Both claims are based on dubious evidence. This book sets out research results to disprove these assumptions, and goes on to explore the beneficial effects of nitrate in preventing infections, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. It is essential reading for researchers in medicine, and those in agriculture and food industries.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"There are considerable implications for soil science in the conclusions. The book deserves to be read widely."

"This book is a must-read for all environmental scientists to create an inquisitiveness about the sources and interpretation of the data being used to create policy."

"This no-nonsense approach to elementary statistics should get you or your students started. Its emphasis on understanding the problem and choosing the correct statistical solution is one that I endorse whole-heartedly."

From The Critics
Nitrate is present in water, soil, plants, and foods, and is a normal human metabolite. Nitrate has been feared as the cause of the rare condition methaemoglobinaemia, or "blue baby syndrome," in infants. It has also been suspected of causing cancer. This book reviews the published data on nitrate and demonstrates that claims of danger are based on dubious evidence. The book explores the beneficial effects of nitrate in preventing infections, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases. The book is useful for environmentalists, public health professionals, and those in agriculture, water, and food industries. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780851995663
  • Publisher: CAB International North America
  • Publication date: 11/28/2001
  • Series: Cabi Publishing Series
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword for the English Edition
Introduction 1
1 The History of Nitrates in Medicine 3
2 Nitrate, the Nitrogen Cycle and the Fertility of Nature 9
2.1 The Nitrogen Cycle 10
2.2 The Increasing Fertility of Nature 12
3 The Metabolism of Nitrate 16
3.1 The Basic Features 16
3.2 The Two Sources of Nitrate: Dietary Intake and Endogenous Synthesis 17
3.3 The Metabolic Conversions of Nitrate in the Body and its Fate 21
3.4 Nitrate Secretion with Saliva and its Transformation to Nitrite in the Mouth 23
3.5 Nitrate and Nitrite in the Stomach 26
3.6 Nitrate Metabolism: a Summary 27
4 Nitrate in Body Fluids 29
4.1 Healthy Humans 30
4.2 Pathological Conditions 32
5 The Case Against Nitrate: a Critical Examination 35
5.1 The Risk of Methaemoglobinaemia in Infants 35
5.2 The Risk of Cancer 54
5.3 Other Grievances 63
6 Nitrate Regulations: Presentation and Discussion 69
6.1 Maximum Nitrate Levels in Drinking Water 69
6.2 Maximum Nitrate Levels in Food 77
6.3 The Acceptable Daily Intake and the Reference Dose for Nitrate in Man 79
7 The Beneficial Effects of Nitrate 84
7.1 The Anti-infective Effects of Nitrate 84
7.2 Nitrate, Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Diseases 88
7.3 Dietary Nitrate and Gastric Cancer 90
7.4 Other Beneficial Effects 92
8 Summary and Conclusions 93
App. 1 Conversion Factors and Tables 95
App. 2 Sources of Nitrate in Human Food 99
App. 3 Nitrate Kinetics in Healthy Adults after Oral Doses of Nitrate 103
App. 4 High Plasma Nitrate Levels in Various Diseases and Therapies 107
App. 5 Human Epidemiological Studies Performed to Evaluate the Effects of Nitrate Exposure on Cancer Incidence and Mortality 111
App. 6 Massive Intakes of Nitrite and Nitrate: Short-Term Effects on Health 119
References 125
Index 163
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