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

Eur J Nutr. 2011 Aug;50(5):293-303. doi: 10.1007/s00394-011-0192-5. Epub 2011 May 31.


Purpose: 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.

Results: 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.

Conclusion: 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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Endothelium / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Nitrates / pharmacokinetics*
  • Nitric Oxide / biosynthesis
  • Nitric Oxide / pharmacokinetics*
  • Nitrites / pharmacokinetics*
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / administration & dosage*


  • Nitrates
  • Nitrites
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors
  • Nitric Oxide