One of the main concerns about hot dogs is the fact that they contain sodium nitrite. When sodium nitrite is digested, it breaks down into nitrosames and other compounds that are viewed as carcinogens, or cancer-causing materials. One report from the American Institute for Cancer research even found that eating a hot dog a day could lead to a 21% increased risk of colorectal cancer. However, other studies do not back up these findings. A pooled data analysis by Harvard University researchers in 2004 found no link between hot dogs or other processed meats and cancer.
Why don’t hot dog producers just leave out the sodium nitrite? This compound protects against botulism. It also acts as a flavor enhancer and a preservative. In short, without sodium nitrite, a hot dog just wouldn’t taste like a hot dog.
Another concern about hot dogs is that they can contain up to 30% fat – or between 10 and 15 grams in a serving. High fat diets can lead to heart problems or other issues with the circulatory system. In addition, the high fat alone can increase a person’s risk of getting certain types of cancers.
Hot dogs are also extremely high in sodium. With over 500 grams of sodium in each hot dog, the sodium can add up quickly. A diet that is high in sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which can cause other medical problems. In addition, some research has indicated that eating hot dogs can lead to a sudden drop in blood pressure, which can be dangerous as well. Although research is not conclusive, those who are watching their sodium intake should definitely be wary before gobbling down several hot dogs at a barbeque.
So are hot dogs healthy? No health guru would recommend them, and they definitely come with several healthy concerns. If you’d like a healthier alternative, choose chicken or tofu hot dogs, or at least beef hot dogs that are low in fat. Even better, try a lean hamburger instead.