Do Hot Dogs Cause Alzheimer’s?

Hot dogs. They’re right up there with ice cream and sweet corn as a quintessential American summer food. Personally, I think they’re disgusting, although I know I ate my fair share as a kid. But I also remember the headlines when I was in college that several studies had suggested a link between hot dog consumption and childhood cancer. That’s beyond disgusting, and I am making sure to keep my kids far from hot dogs.

But now it seems like hot dogs may be bad for older people, too. A study published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that the nitrites and nitrates in hot dogs, other cured and processed meats, and even root vegetables due to commercial fertilizer use, could be linked to increased mortality from age related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes.

Nitrites and nitrates are chemicals used as food preservatives and fertilizers. The problem comes when these chemicals are cooked or exposed to stomach acids and then convert to nitrosamines, which are known cancer-causing chemicals.

These researchers looked at mortality rates for people aged 74-85 years old between 1968 and 2005. They compared mortality rates for different age related diseases, and found something shocking. Mortality rates for diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons and diabetes all increased dramatically over this time period, while rates for other age related diseases such as cerebrovascular disease stayed steady or even declined.

The scientists also found that during this same period of time, between 1955 and 2005, nitrogen-containing fertilizer consumption increased by 230 percent. Even more disturbing, such fertilizer consumption doubled between 1960 and 1980, which just precedes the insulin-resistant epidemics the researchers found. Exposure to these toxins through fast food increased also due to an 8-fold increase in fast food sales during this time period.

According to lead scientist Suzanne de la Monte, MD, MPH, “All of these diseases [with increased mortality rates] are associated with increased insulin resistance and DNA damage. Their prevalence rates have all increased radically over the past several decades and show no sign of plateau. Because there has been a relatively short time interval associated with the dramatic shift in disease incidence and prevalence rates, we believe this is due to exposure-related rather than genetic etiologies.”

In other words, as our society has increased our consumption of processed meats and our use of industrial fertilizers on our food, we’ve also increased our exposure over time to toxic chemicals that not only give our kids cancer but kill us as adults, too.

So what can we do? We as a society need to address how we grow and process our food. I think we as individuals can do a lot by standing up for ourselves and our families and choosing healthy, whole, locally-grown organic food. So buy organic, support small, local, organic farms and farmers markets, go vegetarian if you can, and at the very least, say no to hot dogs at your summer picnics (try a veggie burger instead!)


Jeramie D
Jeramie D13 days ago


Donna S.
Donna S.7 years ago

Watch the movie "Food Inc." and lets see how many people resort to being vegetarian. There are so many chemicals added to our food now, and eating natural foods grown in organic gardens, is the way to go. I know it is expensive, but your body and soul demand it. Meat is the number one adulterated food with the animals being fed growth hormones. Yukkk.

Dan B.
Dan Brook7 years ago

check out

Food for Thought---and Action

Michael P.
Michael P7 years ago

And, at Benjamin T... it isn't "hot dog hate", although that is one of the most heavily processed meats. The article was titled as it was, to put a common face on the problem, something the majority of readers could identify with. Hot dog hate. Ha

Michael P.
Michael P7 years ago

Bottom line, we should all make a sincere effort to eliminate as many heavily processed foods from our diet as possible, and consider using naturally grown produce.

Benjamin T.
Benjamin T.8 years ago

Firstly, reading these user comments is more dangerous to your health than eating a hot dog. God created animals? Kinda like Santa gives you presents. Eating animals is obviously not a sustainable or moral thing to continue doing... but they are delicious and a great source of protein so it won't be going away anytime in the near future. Neither of these subjects have anything to do with this article so... hot dogs and Alzheimer's? really? Why is this article bad mouthing the hot dogs so much when it is obviously the nitrate components doing the damage? Nitrates are pretty common fare in modern foods and have been known to damage health for years... why the hot dog hate?

Rachel H.
Rachel H8 years ago

See, there you go again. You claim that if someone was a vegetarian and got sick, then it MUST be her fault, right? It couldn't possibly be that, oh, I don't know. Maybe a GENETIC disorder? Maybe it was because her birth mother didn't share a her own poor medical history with the girl's adopted parents? Like I said, why not get off your high horse and come join us 'lowly' humans.

She was eating as balanced a vegetarian diet as her low budget allowed, and the doctors told her that was one of the ONLY things that kept her healthy for so long. I'm certainly happy my friend isn't arrogant enough to try and tell people how to eat.

Rob and Jay B.
Jay S8 years ago

Of course, there are always vegie hot dogs! We love them. It's not the knuckles, noses, cartilage & other slaughterhouse throw aways that make a hot dog, it's the spices & flavors added. Vegie hot dogs don't have any nitrites added, nothing has to suffer & die to make them & they don't cost any more than regular hot dogs (or not much).

The idea that humans must eat other animals to be healthy is ludicrous. India has been a Hindu nation (Hinduism is arguably the oldest religion on the earth by thousands of years) & it was the birthplace of the gentle Buddhist way of life. Both of these belief systems have a core tenet of causing no harm to any other living being & therefore foster a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. It seems odd that if humans had to eat the flesh of other animals to be able to be healthy & thrive, that the Indians have managed to survive this long? The claim that we need to eat other animals to be healthy is wrong, & is only an excuse to make the suffering & death of animals for our eating more palatable to our consciences.

If you say someone was vegetarian/vegan & they were unhealthy than that is because they were eating a poorly balanced diet (it may be a good thing to take a B Complex supplement), but if you're eating a balance of nuts, grains, beans, etc. & all the wonderful meat substitutes available now (Fry's, Quorn etc) then there is no excuse for ill health. The variety of vegan meals is endless &

Elizabeth B.
Elizabeth B.8 years ago

I think that a vegetarian diet is wonderful, but you shouldn't go preaching around what is best for everyone. Each body is a unique entity that suffers and responds to different things. I do not eat pork, because pigs simply should not be eaten. They are fine animals-I have nothing against them. Their meat, however, carries a lot of pathogens. I always get sick when I eat it. It also carries very little nutritional value.
However, I have to start eating meat again because I'm going to Jordan to study abroad. I have to eat meat there-otherwise, what will I eat? There are very few vegetarian options that don't include dairy (I'm lactose intolerant). So, in the American perspective, the vegetarian diet is very straight forward. But what about other cultures? I would not say meat is a part of our culture here, since there is a huge disconnect between what we consume and where it comes from. What about reestablishing that connection? Could that lead to better practices? Instead of saying THIS is bad and THAT is bad, why not just try to understand it? I just feel like there is so much finger pointing involved. I don't know, this was just a ramble. Just a few thoughts. It is extremely complicated-and people don't treat it as such.

Rachel H.
Rachel H8 years ago

All of you people who are fortunate to be able to go on a strictly vegetarian diet? Get off your high horse.

For some of us who are sick, our bodies simply are not as capable of absorbing vitamins and minerals. My body, though desperate for protein, simply would not be able to adequately pull what I need from only nuts and plants. I've been told by more than one doctor that I need to be careful to eat enough protein.

My friend, who is also sick, has quite the sensitive system. She used to be a vegetarian until she got very sick and was told by her doctors to start eating free-range chicken and fish.

And, actually, we are neither carnivores or herbivores. We're omnivores. Our teeth are made to grind both meat and plants. If, as some claim, we 'separate' God from our diets, than that means we evolved (by common thinking), in which case, our ancestors survived on a mixture of plants and berries as well as scavenging. I'm told our supposed ape forefathers were quite fond of breaking open old bones to eat the marrow.

Everything in moderation, of course. In addition to being told by my doctors to try and get some more protein into my diet, I was recommended to cut back on fatty foods and sugars, up my eating of fruits and vegetables, and find balance. That's the key: Balance. Eat smart.

I'm all for healthier food, but some of us can't afford it. Health, unfortunately, equals money.