European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 50, Issue 5, pp 293–303 | Cite as

Dietary nitrite and nitrate: a review of potential mechanisms of cardiovascular benefits

  • Ajay Machha
  • Alan N. SchechterEmail author



In the last decade, a growing scientific and medical interest has emerged toward cardiovascular effects of dietary nitrite and nitrate; however, many questions concerning their mode of action(s) remain unanswered. In this review, we focus on multiple mechanisms that might account for potential cardiovascular beneficial effects of dietary nitrite and nitrate.


Beneficial changes to cardiovascular health from dietary nitrite and nitrate might result from several mechanism(s) including their reduction into nitric oxide, improvement in endothelial function, vascular relaxation, and/or inhibition of the platelet aggregation. From recently obtained evidence, it appears that the longstanding concerns about the toxicity of oral nitrite or nitrate are overstated.


Dietary nitrite and nitrate may have cardiovascular protective effects in both healthy individuals and also those with cardiovascular disease conditions. A role for nitrite and nitrate in nitric oxide biosynthesis and/or in improving nitric oxide bioavailability may eventually provide a rationale for using dietary nitrite and nitrate supplementation in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular diseases.


Cardiovascular disease Diet Endothelial dysfunction Nitric oxide Nitrite Nitrate 



This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Maryland, USA. We thank Dr Barbora Piknova (Molecular Medicine Branch, NIDDK) for her valuable inputs.


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© Springer-Verlag (outside the USA) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Molecular Medicine Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney DiseasesNational Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA

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