Science Sometimes Makes Me Feel Weepy

This is really useless information for the general population; its from a chapter in my chemistry book which struck me. When I say struck, I mean it immediately stirred despair in my heart. Why? Its a description of a potential cancer causer. In deciding to go into the nutrition field I assumed I would learn more about diseases like cancer. However, I never thought that general chemical explanations would choke me up.  Suddenly, I can picture the havok, the chaos, the destruction, in her body. It all seems like a big biochemical misunderstanding. A silly misfire of molecules conducting a cascade of pure destruction. Her killer.

That’s it.

This will probably sound like mumble jumble:

“Application: SN1 Reactions, Nitrosamines, and Cancer”

“Spam, a widely consumed canned meat in Alaska, Hawaii, and other parts of the United States, contains sodium nitrite.

SN1 reactions are thought to play a role in how nitrosamines, compounds having the general structurR2NN==O, act as toxins and carcinogens. Nitrosamines are present in many foods, especially cured meats and smoked fish, and they are also found in tobacco smoke, alcoholic beverages, and cosmetics. Nitrosamines cause many forms of cancer.

Nitrosamines can be formed when amines that occur naturally in food react with sodium nitrite, NaNO2, a preservative added to meats such as ham, bacon, and hot dogs to inhibit the growth of Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium responsible for a lethal form of food poisoning. Nitrosamines are also formed in vivo in the gastrointestinal tract when bacteria in the body convert nitrates (NO3) into nitrites (NO2), which then react with amines.

Two common nitrosamines:

In the presence of acid or heat, nitrosamines are converted to diazonium ions, which contain a very good leaving group, N2. With certain R groups, these diazonium compounds form carbocations, which then react with biological nucleophiles (such as DNA or an enzyme) in the cell. If this nucleophilic substitution reaction occurs at a crucial site in a biomolecule, it can disrupt normal cell function leading to cancer or cell death. This two-step process—loss of N2 as a leaving group and reaction with a nucleophile—is an SN1 reaction.

The use of sodium nitrite as a preservative is a classic example of the often delicate balance between risk and benefit. On the one hand, there is an enormous benefit in reducing the prevalence of fatal toxins in meats by the addition of sodium nitrite. On the other, there is the potential risk that sodium nitrite may increase the level of nitrosamines in certain foods. Nitrites are still used as food additives, but the allowable level of nitrites in cured meats has been reduced. Debate continues on whether nitrite preservatives used at their current low levels actually pose a risk to the consumer.”


Spam anyone?

Published by Anna Buck

"everything was beautiful and nothing hurt."

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