The oral bioavailability of nitrate from nitrate-rich vegetables in humans

Toxicol Lett. 2008 Oct 1;181(3):177-81. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2008.07.019. Epub 2008 Aug 3.


High dietary nitrate intake may pose a risk to human health. Since up to 80-85% of dietary nitrate intake comes from vegetables, the aim of this study was to determine the absolute bioavailability of nitrate from three nitrate-rich vegetables. In an open, four-way cross-over, single dose study, 12 human subjects underwent the following treatments: (1) intravenous infusion of 500mg sodium nitrate, (2) oral administration of 300g cooked spinach, (3) oral administration of 300g raw lettuce, and (4) oral administration of 300g cooked beetroot. The wash-out period between treatments was at least 6 days. Plasma samples were analysed to assess the nitrate and nitrite concentrations, and pharmacokinetic parameters were calculated. The bioavailability of nitrate was 98+/-12% from cooked spinach, 114+/-14% from raw lettuce and 106+/-15% from cooked beetroot. There was no significant increase in plasma nitrite concentrations. This study shows that nitrate from vegetables, whether cooked or uncooked, is absorbed very effectively, resulting in an absolute nitrate bioavailability of around 100%. Thus, reducing the amount of nitrate in vegetables can be an effective measure to lower the systemic nitrate exposure of the general population. However, other aspects, such as the costs to produce vegetables with a low nitrate content and the possible beneficial effects of nitrate in vegetables, need to be considered when evaluating the usefulness of such a measure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Beta vulgaris / chemistry
  • Biological Availability
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Eating
  • Food Contamination / analysis
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Lettuce / chemistry
  • Lettuce / standards
  • Nitrates / administration & dosage
  • Nitrates / blood
  • Nitrates / pharmacokinetics*
  • Nitrites / administration & dosage
  • Nitrites / blood
  • Nitrites / pharmacokinetics
  • Spinacia oleracea / chemistry
  • Spinacia oleracea / standards
  • Vegetables* / chemistry
  • Vegetables* / standards


  • Nitrates
  • Nitrites