Japanese knotweed may lower cancer risk of processed meat, find researchers

Website Link (Article by Flora Southey)

Replacing carcinogenic compound nitrite in processed meat with an extract taken from Japanese knotweed could reduce cancer risk, according to an EU co-funded research project.

Whether eating red meat, and in particular processed meat, is associated with cancer risk is a hotly debated topic.

Some argue that meat and meat products provide essential nutrients to the human diet, and as a result, may contribute to reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases.

While others, including the World Cancer Research Fund, argue that significant evidence exists linking processed meat consumption with cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified processed meat as a carcinogenic to humans.

It has been suggested that N-nitroso compounds (NOCs) are partly responsible for the link between red meat consumption and cancer risk – notably colorectal cancer (CRC).

As food additive sodium nitrite (E250) is commonly used in processed meat products, a team of researchers is examining the potential for botanical extract replacements to reduce sodium nitrate consumption.

Replacing E250 with botanical alternatives

“The ongoing worries about highly processed red meat have often focused on the role of nitrite, and its links with cancer. The PHYTOME project tackled the issue by creating processed red meat products that replace additives with plant-based alternatives,” ​said Gunter Kuhnle, study co-author and Professor of Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Reading.

One such botanical alternative being tested under the EU co-funded PHYTOME project comes from Japanese knotweed.

The perennial weed is native to Japan, China and Korea. Although feared by homeowners for its ability to invade gardens and buildings, Japanese knotweed contains a chemical that has the potential to replace nitrite preservative in cured meats, such as bacon and sausages. In processed meat, nitrite preservative is used to control the growth of pathogenic bacteria, to prevent rancidity, and to create the characteristic pink colour of cured meats.

In the study, the researchers evaluated the effect of consumption of processed red meat containing reduced levels of nitrate that had been enriched with phytochemicals, such as Japanese knotweed extract.

Split into two groups, 63 study participants in the Netherlands consumed processed meats containing standard nitrate levels or reduced nitrite levels. The processed meats consumed in both groups contained selections of natural antioxidants and bioactive molecules delivered by plant extracts.

The amount of apparent total N-nitroso compound (ATNC) was then tested participants’ faecal water.

Promising results

Findings revealed a ‘significant’ reduction in faecal ATNC levels – a surrogate marker of endogenously formed NOCs – as compared to the consumption of conventional processed red meat products.

“Our latest findings show that using natural additives in processed red meat reduces the creation of compounds in the body that are linked to cancer,”​ explained Kuhnle.

And surprisingly, the researcher continued, the natural additives seemed to have some protective effects even when the red meat contained nitrite.

“This suggests that natural additives could be used to reduce some of the potentially harmful effects of nitrite, even in foods where it is not possible to take our nitrite preservatives altogether.”

Source:​ Molecular Nutrition & Food Research
‘Replacement of nitrite in meat products by natural bioactive compounds results in reduced exposure to N-nitroso compounds: The Phytome Project”
(van Breda et al. 2021)

Published by RenSun Lee

Kia ora! Sustainability is at the core of my soul ever since I was a kid. I always strive to finish the food on my plate and live as a minimalist. I love to cut down on waste in order to live sustainably and harmoniously with our planet. This brings me to my passion as a Food Scientist to integrate new technologies into innovative and creative solutions to meet customer demands and market trends and to optimize products and processes for quality, savings and sustainability. To these goals, I have published a Journal on my work on sustainable packaging and patented a new Antimicrobial wash. Nothing is more satisfying than working hard and smart at the workplace and playing hard outside of working hours. I enjoy rejuvenating myself through spending quality time with my two adorable kids and my awesome soul mate and getting close to nature when possible, be it gardening, tramping or going to the beach. I also love to learn about our magnificent universe and how sustainability is working in the grand scheme of things. I strongly believe that Work, Life & Balance is the key to a healthy state of mind, both physically and mentally. I look forward to making a positive difference wherever and whenever I can. Through this Blog, I hope to catalog recent Food Trends and Food Technologies that I come across so that anyone who is interested can have access to it (articles and resources). Please use these resources at your discretion. On top of that, I would also like to share related news and technologies of the future that would help mankind advance towards a Type 1 Civilization. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to share and contribute to the “Resources“. I would like to thank you in advance for dropping by. I sincerely hope that you can benefit from the recent Food Trends and Food Technologies I catalogued. Kind regards | Ngā mihi RenSun Lee

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