Background: Nitrate, which is an inorganic anion abundant in vegetables, increases the efficiency of isolated human mitochondria. Such an effect might be reflected in changes in the resting metabolic rate (RMR) and formation of reactive oxygen species. The bioactivation of nitrate involves its active accumulation in saliva followed by a sequential reduction to nitrite, nitric oxide, and other reactive nitrogen species.
Objective: We studied effects of inorganic nitrate, in amounts that represented a diet rich in vegetables, on the RMR in healthy volunteers.
Design: In a randomized, double-blind, crossover study, we measured the RMR by using indirect calorimetry in 13 healthy volunteers after a 3-d dietary intervention with sodium nitrate (NaNO₃) or a placebo (NaCl). The nitrate dose (0.1 mmol · kg⁻¹ · d⁻¹) corresponded to the amount in 200-300 g spinach, beetroot, lettuce, or other vegetable that was rich in nitrate. Effects of direct nitrite exposure on cell respiration were studied in cultured human primary myotubes.
Results: The RMR was 4.2% lower after nitrate compared with placebo administration, and the change correlated strongly to the degree of nitrate accumulation in saliva (r² = 0.71). The thyroid hormone status, insulin sensitivity, glucose uptake, plasma concentration of isoprostanes, and total antioxidant capacity were unaffected by nitrate. The administration of nitrite to human primary myotubes acutely inhibited respiration.
Conclusions: Dietary inorganic nitrate reduces the RMR. This effect may have implications for the regulation of metabolic function in health and disease.