Dietary nitrate (found in green leafy vegetables, such as rocket, and in beetroot) is now recognized to be an important source of nitric oxide (NO), via the nitrate-nitrite-NO pathway. Dietary nitrate confers several cardiovascular beneficial effects on blood pressure, platelets, endothelial function, mitochondrial efficiency and exercise. While this pathway may now seem obvious, its realization followed a rather tortuous course over two decades. Early steps included the discovery that nitrite was a source of NO in the ischaemic heart but this appeared to have deleterious effects. In addition, nitrate-derived nitrite provided a gastric source of NO. However, residual nitrite was not thought to be absorbed systemically. Nitrite was also considered to be physiologically inert but potentially carcinogenic, through N-nitrosamine formation. In Part 1 of a two-part Review on the nitrate-nitrite-NO pathway we describe key twists and turns in the elucidation of the pathway and the underlying mechanisms. This provides the critical foundation for the more recent developments in the nitrate-nitrite-NO pathway which are covered in Part 2.
Keywords: blood pressure; dietary nitrate; endothelial function; ischaemia-reperfusion; nitrite; platelets.
© 2016 The British Pharmacological Society.