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Med Hypotheses. 2009 Nov;73(5):794-6. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2009.03.049. Epub 2009 May 27.

Does NO metabolism play a role in the effects of vegetables in health? Nitric oxide formation via the reduction of nitrites and nitrates.

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  • 1Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research, Tel Hashomer, Israel.


A recent attribution of vegetables to human health stems from their effect on the gasotransmitter nitric oxide (NO). This commentary proposes that a major reason for this attribution is that vegetables are rich in nitrates. Recent research has shown that nitrites and nitrates are not only inert end-products of NO oxidation. In addition, they can be recycled back to bioactive NO and this pathway is an important alternative to the classical l-arginine-NO-synthase pathway. Various chronic ailments, e.g., diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, are symptomatic of NO bioavailability. Because NO deficiency is metabolically complex, natural nitrate-rich nutrients, like green leafy vegetables, can improve these chronic ailments via the alternative nitrate-NO pathway. This commentary implies an added value for vegetables in enhancing health such as cardiac health and in lowering the risks of maladies such as diabetes.

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