Question: My best friend told me that feeding hot dogs to children will cause them to have brain tumors. I don't believe him, but it scares me a bit so I want to know if it's true.
Petie - About.com User
Answer: The answer is no. A child will not be at a greater risk of forming brain tumors if he or she eats too many hot dogs. However, moms-to-be may want to cut hot dogs and other processed meats such as bologna, sausage, pepperoni and other packaged luncheon meats out of their diets.
The concern about hot dogs and brain tumors probably stems from research that looked for a possible correlation between the consumption of processed meats by pregnant women and the occurrence of brain tumors in their children. Laboratory research performed on lab animals showed that substances formed from sodium nitrites would cause neurological tumors in the offspring of female animals that were fed the nitrates (turns out in humans, nitrites aren't all that bad).
These findings spurred researchers to study human populations and they found that women who ate more processed meats had children who were more likely to develop brain tumors. Later research also found that women who ate diets high in processed meats were also more likely to give birth to babies who weighed less than they should have.
While there is a correlation between mothers-to-be and childhood brain tumors, that same risk doesn't extend to children when they eat hot dogs. Actually, while rates of childhood brain cancer went up in the 1970s through the 1990s, the amount of nitrites used in processed meats actually went down.
Hot dogs, franks, wieners (or whatever you wish to call them) don't cause brain brain tumors, but they're not exactly healthful foods. Like other processed meats, they are high in calories and saturated fats. They also contain a large amount of sodium. A diet high in processed meats has been associated with having a higher risk of other types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer, in adults. Hot dogs are also prone to carry the bacteria called listeria that causes food-borne illness.
While the occasional hot dog at a baseball game may not ruin your health, frequent consumption of hot dogs and other processed meats shouldn't be part of a healthy diet.
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