Emerging evidence strongly suggests that dietary nitrate, derived in the diet primarily from vegetables, could contribute to cardiovascular health via effects on nitric oxide (NO) status. NO plays an essential role in cardiovascular health. It is produced via the classical L-arginine-NO-synthase pathway and the recently discovered enterosalivary nitrate-nitrite-NO pathway. The discovery of this alternate pathway has highlighted dietary nitrate as a candidate for the cardioprotective effect of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. Clinical trials with dietary nitrate have observed improvements in blood pressure, endothelial function, ischemia-reperfusion injury, arterial stiffness, platelet function, and exercise performance with a concomitant augmentation of markers of NO status. While these results are indicative of cardiovascular benefits with dietary nitrate intake, there is still a lingering concern about nitrate in relation to methemoglobinemia, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. It is the purpose of this review to present an overview of NO and its critical role in cardiovascular health; to detail the observed vascular benefits of dietary nitrate intake through effects on NO status as well as to discuss the controversy surrounding the possible toxic effects of nitrate.
Keywords: L-arginine–NO-synthase pathway; Vegetables; nitrate–nitrite–NO pathway; nutrients; nutrition.