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JAN

Nitric Oxide: Will It Kill Me or Cure Me?

Filed Under: Sexual Health at 4:23 pm | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
Heads of LettucePumped from cars, nitric oxide melds with oxygen forming nitrogen dioxide. The compound floats through the air, contributing to the formulation of smog and acid rain as well as the advancement of global warming. It is a potent air pollutant, one that we strive to minimize in our atmosphere.  Yet, scientists have started telling us that we want more in our bodies. Why?

As with everything, nitric oxide has multiple functions. Yes, in the air, it takes away from health, polluting our environment, but in our bodies, it adds to it. It lines our arteries, allowing them to dilate, and aids in blood flow. An adequate level of nitric oxide allows us to maximize our cardiovascular wellness, while an impairment of it leads to disease and possibly a heart attack. Therefore, it is important for healthy individuals to consume appropriate amounts of nitrites and nitrates, both of which contribute to nitric oxide production. And for those with a high risk of cardiovascular disease, it may be even more vital.

Researchers recently tested the effects of nitrite/nitrate-rich diets on mice.  They fed half of the rodents spiked water, either nitrate or nitrite, and then induced heart attacks in all of them. Those with the supplemented drinks were more likely to survive the trauma and had less muscle damage afterwards, allowing scientists to conclude that a diet filled with nitrites (via leafy greens, beets, fruits etc.) and nitrates (via cured meat) could protect individuals from having a severe heart attack. But don’t hop on the bacon train too quickly.

The benefits of a nitrate-rich diet were less than that of a nitrite-rich diet.  This means that you should increase your intake of vegetables, such as celery, lettuce and spinach, with abandon but be careful when considering cured meat. Don’t start eating sausage as if your life depended on it. It doesn’t. Have a moderate amount. That way you’ll minimize the results of a heart attack without maximizing other health risks.


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