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Nitrite and nitrate: cardiovascular risk–benefit and metabolic effect

Tang, Yaoping; Jiang, Hong; Bryan, Nathan S

doi: 10.1097/MOL.0b013e328341942c
Nutrition and metabolism: Edited by Paul Nestel and Ronald P. Mensink

Purpose of review To review the most recent published literature on the biological effects of nitrite and nitrate in order to establish the context for potential health benefits vs. potential risks or adverse effects. Nitrite and nitrate are indigenous to our diet and are formed naturally within our body from the oxidation of nitric oxide. Emerging health benefits from dietary sources of nitrite and nitrate contradict decades of epidemiological research that have suggested an association of nitrite and nitrate in foods, primarily cured and processed meat, with certain cancers.

Recent findings The major source of exposure of nitrite and nitrate comes from the consumption of nitrate-enriched vegetables. The preponderance of epidemiological studies shows a very weak association with consumption of meats and certain cancers, which contain very little nitrite and nitrate. Nitrite and nitrate in certain foods and diets can be metabolized to nitric oxide and promote cardiovascular benefits and cytoprotection.

Summary The cardiovascular benefits of nitrite and nitrate are beginning to be translated in humans by the increasing number of clinical trials using nitrite and nitrate. The collective body of evidence suggests that foods enriched in nitrite and nitrate provide significant health benefits with very little risk.

Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, Texas, USA

Correspondence to Nathan S. Bryan, PhD, Center of Cell Signaling, Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine, The University of Texas – Houston Health Science Center, 1825 Pressler St. 530C, Houston, TX 77030, USA Tel: +1 713 500 2439; fax: +1 713 500 2447; e-mail: Nathan.Bryan@uth.tmc.edu

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.