Aims: Poor blood flow and hypoxia/ischemia contribute to many disease states and may also be a factor in the decline of physical and cognitive function in aging. Nitrite has been discovered to be a vasodilator that is preferentially harnessed in hypoxia. Thus, both infused and inhaled nitrite are being studied as therapeutic agents for a variety of diseases. In addition, nitrite derived from nitrate in the diet has been shown to decrease blood pressure and improve exercise performance. Thus, dietary nitrate may also be important when increased blood flow in hypoxic or ischemic areas is indicated. These conditions could include age-associated dementia and cognitive decline. The goal of this study was to determine if dietary nitrate would increase cerebral blood flow in older adults.
Methods and results: In this investigation we administered a high vs. low nitrate diet to older adults (74.7±6.9 years) and measured cerebral perfusion using arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging. We found that the high nitrate diet did not alter global cerebral perfusion, but did lead to increased regional cerebral perfusion in frontal lobe white matter, especially between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex.
Conclusion: These results suggest that dietary nitrate may be useful in improving regional brain perfusion in older adults in critical brain areas known to be involved in executive functioning.
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