Dietary nitrates, nitrites, and cardiovascular disease

Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2011 Dec;13(6):484-92. doi: 10.1007/s11883-011-0209-9.


Dietary nitrate (NO(3)), nitrite (NO(2)), and arginine can serve as sources for production of NO(x) (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. NO(x) 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.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Diet*
  • Fertilizers
  • Humans
  • Nitrates / administration & dosage
  • Nitrates / adverse effects
  • Nitrates / analysis
  • Nitrates / pharmacology*
  • Nitrites / administration & dosage
  • Nitrites / adverse effects
  • Nitrites / analysis
  • Nitrites / pharmacology*
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Vegetables / chemistry
  • Water Supply / analysis


  • Fertilizers
  • Nitrates
  • Nitrites
  • Soil Pollutants