Mayo Clinic Health Library


Sodium nitrate in meat: Heart disease risk factor?

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

Updated: 11-11-2010


Sodium nitrate, a preservative that's used in some processed meats, such as bacon, jerky and luncheon meats, could increase your heart disease risk. Aside from the salt and saturated fat in these meats that can disrupt a heart-healthy diet, sodium nitrate also may harm your heart. 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.

If you eat meat, it's best to limit processed meat in your diet and focus on lean, fresh meats and poultry. Lean beef, pork and poultry are good choices, but limit your servings to no more than 6 ounces (170 grams, or about the size of two decks of playing cards) daily, depending on your overall dietary plan.