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Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jul;90(1):1-10. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.27131. Epub 2009 May 13.

Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits.

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  • 1Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA.

Abstract

The presence of nitrates and nitrites in food is associated with an increased risk of gastrointestinal cancer and, in infants, methemoglobinemia. Despite the physiologic roles for nitrate and nitrite in vascular and immune function, consideration of food sources of nitrates and nitrites as healthful dietary components has received little attention. Approximately 80% of dietary nitrates are derived from vegetable consumption; sources of nitrites include vegetables, fruit, and processed meats. Nitrites are produced endogenously through the oxidation of nitric oxide and through a reduction of nitrate by commensal bacteria in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract. As such, the dietary provision of nitrates and nitrites from vegetables and fruit may contribute to the blood pressure-lowering effects of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. We quantified nitrate and nitrite concentrations by HPLC in a convenience sample of foods. Incorporating these values into 2 hypothetical dietary patterns that emphasize high-nitrate or low-nitrate vegetable and fruit choices based on the DASH diet, we found that nitrate concentrations in these 2 patterns vary from 174 to 1222 mg. The hypothetical high-nitrate DASH diet pattern exceeds the World Health Organization's Acceptable Daily Intake for nitrate by 550% for a 60-kg adult. These data call into question the rationale for recommendations to limit nitrate and nitrite consumption from plant foods; a comprehensive reevaluation of the health effects of food sources of nitrates and nitrites is appropriate. The strength of the evidence linking the consumption of nitrate- and nitrite-containing plant foods to beneficial health effects supports the consideration of these compounds as nutrients.

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PMID:
19439460
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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