Improved motor and cognitive performance with sodium nitrite supplementation is related to small metabolite signatures: a pilot trial in middle-aged and older adults

Aging (Albany NY). 2015 Nov;7(11):1004-21. doi: 10.18632/aging.100842.


Advancing age is associated with reductions in nitric oxide bioavailability and changes in metabolic activity, which are implicated in declines in motor and cognitive function. In preclinical models, sodium nitrite supplementation (SN) increases plasma nitrite and improves motor function, whereas other nitric oxide-boosting agents improve cognitive function. This pilot study was designed to translate these findings to middle-aged and older (MA/O) humans to provide proof-of-concept support for larger trials. SN (10 weeks, 80 to 160 mg/day capsules, TheraVasc, Inc.) acutely and chronically increased plasma nitrite and improved performance on measures of motor and cognitive outcomes (all p<0.05 or better) in healthy MA/O adults (62 ± 7 years). Untargeted metabolomics analysis revealed that SN significantly altered 33 (160 mg/day) to 45 (80 mg/day) different metabolites, 13 of which were related to changes in functional outcomes; baseline concentrations of 99 different metabolites predicted functional improvements with SN. This pilot study provides the first evidence that SN improves aspects of motor and cognitive function in healthy MA/O adults, and that these improvements are associated with, and predicted by, the plasma metabolome. Our findings provide the necessary support for larger clinical trials on this promising pharmacological strategy for preserving physiological function with aging.

Keywords: aging; metabolomics; neuromuscular; nitrates/nitrites; precision medicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolome
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / drug effects*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Sodium Nitrite / administration & dosage*
  • Sodium Nitrite / blood


  • Sodium Nitrite