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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Development of estimates of dietary nitrates, nitrites, and nitrosamines for use with the short willet food frequency questionnaire

John S Griesenbeck, Michelle D Steck, John C Huber, Joseph R Sharkey*, Antonio A Rene and Jean D Brender

Author affiliations

Department of Social and Behavioral Health, School of Rural Public Health, Texas A&M Health Science Center, College Station, TX, USA

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Citation and License

Nutrition Journal 2009, 8:16  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-8-16

Published: 6 April 2009

Abstract

Background

Studies have suggested that nitrates, nitrites, and nitrosamines have an etiologic role in adverse pregnancy outcomes and chronic diseases such as cancer. Although an extensive body of literature exists on estimates of these compounds in foods, the extant data varies in quality, quantified estimates, and relevance.

Methods

We developed estimates of nitrates, nitrites, and nitrosamines for food items listed in the Short Willet Food Frequency Questionnaire (WFFQ) as adapted for use in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Multiple reference databases were searched for published literature reflecting nitrate, nitrite, and nitrosamine values in foods. Relevant published literature was reviewed; only publications reporting results for items listed on the WFFQ were selected for inclusion. The references selected were prioritized according to relevance to the U.S. population.

Results

Based on our estimates, vegetable products contain the highest levels of nitrate, contributing as much as 189 mg/serving. Meat and bean products contain the highest levels of nitrites with values up to 1.84 mg/serving. Alcohol, meat and dairy products contain the highest values of nitrosamines with a maximum value of 0.531 μg/serving. The estimates of dietary nitrates, nitrites, and nitrosamines generated in this study are based on the published values currently available.

Conclusion

To our knowledge, these are the only estimates specifically designed for use with the adapted WFFQ and generated to represent food items available to the U.S. population. The estimates provided may be useful in other research studies, specifically in those exploring the relation between exposure to these compounds in foods and adverse health outcomes.