Researchers have discovered a substantial link between processed and preserved food as well as fertilisers with increased deaths from Alzheimer's, diabetes and Parkinson's diseases.
Increased levels of nitrates found in food and environment are connected to age-related diseases.
Suzanne de la Monte of Rhode Island Hospital (RIH) and colleagues found strong parallels between age adjusted increases in death rate from Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes and the progressive increases in human exposure to nitrates, nitrites and nitrosamines through processed and preserved foods as well as fertilisers.
De la Monte, also a professor at Brown University, said: "we have become a 'nitrosamine generation.'"
"In essence, we have moved to a diet that is rich in amines and nitrates, which lead to increased nitrosamine production. We receive increased exposure through the abundant use of nitrate-containing fertilisers for agriculture."
Nitrites and nitrates belong to a class of chemical compounds that have been found to be harmful to humans and animals. More than 90 per cent of these compounds have been found to be carcinogenic.
They are found in many food products including fried bacon, cured meats and cheese products as well as beer and water. Exposure also occurs through manufacturing and processing of rubber and latex products, as well as fertilisers, pesticides and cosmetics.
Ground beef, cured meats and bacon in particular contain abundant amounts of amines due to their high protein content. Because of the significant levels of added nitrates and nitrites, nitrosamines are nearly always detectable in these foods.
Nitrosamines basically become highly reactive at the cellular level, which then alters gene expression and causes DNA damage. The researchers note that the role of nitrosamines has been well studied, and their role as a carcinogen has been fully documented.