From Cancer to Insanity: All the Reasons Why Hot Dogs Might Be the Most Dangerous Food of All Time

Hot dogs are an American staple. Between ball games, barbecues, and any kind of get together, there are few foods as versatile and delicious as hot dogs. But hot dogs do have a dark side. And in all seriousness, they’ve been linked to some pretty terrifying health consequences. Next time you think about challenging Joey Chestnut in next year’s hot dog competition, you may want to think again.

hot dogs

Hot dogs have some serious health risks. | Stan Honda/AFP/GettyImages

Hot dogs contain an absurd amount of sodium — which can lead to serious health problems

If you’re craving a hot dog, you might not want to read its nutrition facts. In one Sabrett natural casing beef hot dog, you’ll find 15 grams of fat and 470 milligrams of sodium. And that’s before it’s loaded up with all the fixings, like ketchup, mustard, relish, sauerkraut — you get the point. Plus, if you’re enjoying a family barbecue or watching your favorite baseball game, you’re bound to have a second hot dog. And maybe even a third.

When you put all of that sodium and fat into your body, you’re doing lasting damage. Fat clogs the arteries, and sodium holds excess fluid in the body, leading to high blood pressure and added stress on the heart. Fat and sodium can both lead to heart disease and heart attack.

The World Health Organization considers hot dogs carcinogenic

As if the fat and sodium didn’t make hot dogs problematic enough, there’s one major risk factor you should consider when grabbing that dog: Cancer. The World Health Organization says that processed meats cause cancer. According to, “processed” meats refers to meats that have been treated in some way to preserve their shelf life or add flavor. Salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking are all ways of preserving meats. Altering the meat using preservatives like nitrates, which are then consumed by you and digested, are linked to a 5% increase in colon cancer. And while just one hot dog might not have any effect on your cancer risk, making a habit of eating a few hot dogs per week (which is common during the summertime) might put you at risk.

A new study links hot dogs to mania

In July 2018, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine released a study concluding that people who eat processed meats, including hot dogs, are at a greater risk for developing manic episodes, which are related to conditions like bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder. The study, which looked at 1,101 people with psychiatric disorders, found that consuming nitrates was linked with a higher risk of mental illness. Nitrates act as preservatives in processed meats.

The study looked at several other dietary exposures but found that nothing had a correlation with poor mental health the way nitrate consumption did. One thing to note is the study did not ask people how often they consumed processed meats, which means there is no telling the correlation between the amount you eat and your likelihood of mania. Doctors have only concluded that nitrates showed a significant link, which other foods did not.

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