Nitrate-nitrite-nitrosamines exposure and the risk of type 1 diabetes: A review of current data

World J Diabetes. 2016 Oct 15;7(18):433-440. doi: 10.4239/wjd.v7.i18.433.


The potential toxic effects of nitrate-nitrite-nitrosamine on pancreatic β cell have remained a controversial issue over the past two decades. In this study, we reviewed epidemiological studies investigated the associations between nitrate-nitrite-nitrosamines exposure, from both diet and drinking water to ascertain whether these compounds may contribute to development of type 1 diabetes. To identify relevant studies, a systematic search strategy of PubMed, Scopus, and Science Direct was conducted using queries including the key words "nitrate", "nitrite", "nitrosamine" with "type 1 diabetes" or "insulin dependent diabetes mellitus". All searches were limited to studies published in English. Ecologic surveys, case-control and cohort studies have indicated conflicting results in relation to nitrate-nitrite exposure from drinking water and the risk of type 1 diabetes. A null, sometimes even negative association has been mainly reported in regions with a mean nitrate levels < 25 mg/L in drinking water, while increased risk of type 1 diabetes was observed in those with a maximum nitrate levels > 40-80 mg/L. Limited data are available regarding the potential diabetogenic effect of nitrite from drinking water, although there is evidence indicating dietary nitrite could be a risk factor for development of type 1 diabetes, an effect however that seems to be significant in a higher range of acceptable limit for nitrate/nitrite. Current data regarding dietary exposure of nitrosamine and development of type 1 diabetes is also inconsistent. Considering to an increasing trend of type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) along with an elevated nitrate-nitrite exposure, additional research is critical to clarify potential harmful effects of nitrate-nitrite-nitrosamine exposure on β-cell autoimmunity and the risk of T1DM.

Keywords: Nitrate; Nitrite; Nitrosamine; Type 1 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review