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Life Sci. 1996;58(6):469-76.

Sex differences in concentrations of exhaled nitric oxide and plasma nitrate.

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Department of Clinical Pharmacology, University of Vienna, Austria.


Nitric oxide (NO) is generally considered as an endogenous vasoprotective agent. Various studies indicate that the female sex hormone estradiol, that contributes to the well known gender differences in cardiovascular disease, may enhance NO-production. Thus we studied sex differences in NO-generation by measuring single breath NO-exhalation and plasma levels of nitrate (NO3), the stable endmetabolite of NO. In this observational trial 22 male and 21 female volunteers, 19 to 38 years of age, were studied on 3 days at weekly intervals. Median concentrations of NO were 20 parts per billion (95% CI: 16 to 32 ppb) in women and 34 ppb (95% CI: 31 to 58 ppb) in men. The median plasma concentrations of NO3 were 14 microM/L (95% CI: 11 to 23 microM/L) in women and 27 microM/L (95% CI: 24 to 47 microM/L) in men. Thus, men exhaled 59% more NO (p < 0.001) and had 99% higher NO3 levels than women (p < 0.0001). Even when exhaled NO concentrations were corrected for body weight, men exhaled 50% more NO than women (p = 0.024). No significant changes in measured endpoints were seen during the menstrual cycle (p > 0.05) in women. In view of the diversity of NO-actions, the finding of marked sex differences in NO-production is basic to the elucidation of gender differences in a number of (patho)-physiologic conditions.

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