Nutrition (William S. Harris, Section Editor)

Current Atherosclerosis Reports

, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 484-492

First online:

Dietary Nitrates, Nitrites, and Cardiovascular Disease

  • Norman G. HordAffiliated withDepartment of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University Email author 

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Dietary nitrate (NO3), nitrite (NO2), and arginine can serve as sources for production of NOx (a diverse group of metabolites including nitric oxide, nitrosothiols, and nitroalkenes) via ultraviolet light exposure to skin, mammalian nitrate/nitrite reductases in tissues, and nitric oxide synthase enzymes, respectively. NOx are responsible for the hypotensive, antiplatelet, and cytoprotective effects of dietary nitrates and nitrites. Current regulatory limits on nitrate intakes, based on concerns regarding potential risk of carcinogenicity and methemoglobinemia, are exceeded by normal daily intakes of single foods, such as soya milk and spinach, as well as by some recommended dietary patterns such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet. This review includes a call for regulatory bodies to consider all available data on the beneficial physiologic roles of nitrate and nitrite in order to derive rational bases for dietary recommendations.


Nitrate Nitrite Nitric oxide Nitrosothiols Nitroalkenes Enterosalivary circulation