NITRATE, AN ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT MOST AMERICANS ARE MISSING AND DEFICIENT
In the image above, the spinach on the right is fertilized and has sufficient nitrate. The spinach on the left is unfertilized and is missing many nutrients, including nitrate. Fertilized vegetables grow taller and are darker green.
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine is famously quoted “Let food by thy medicine and medicine by thy food”. Never before has that been more true than with foods that contain inorganic nitrate.
The Importance of Nitrate
Nitrate is a naturally occurring molecule that is part of our atmospheric nitrogen cycle that plants then assimilate for growth and energy. The air we breathe is 78% nitrogen and through lightning storms and nitrogen fixing bacteria in the soil, this nitrogen is converted into nitrate.
Nitrate is responsible for the growth of plants and assimilation of other nutrients. This is the basis of nitrogen based fertilizers to optimize plant growth. Without nitrate, plants do not grow and do not assimilate other important nutrients.
Nitrate is present in all vegetables but found in highest amounts in green leafy vegetables and root vegetables such as kale, spinach, arugula and beets. Throughout decades of epidemiological research, it is obvious and apparent that a plant based diet or through eating sufficient vegetables, there is less incidence of heart disease, cancer and basically all chronic disease.
For years, scientists argued it was the antioxidant content of vegetables that was responsible for the beneficial effects but clinical trials using antioxidants have failed to reproduce the benefits of eating vegetables.
Most recently, nitrate has been proposed to be the component responsible for the health benefits of vegetables.
Now dozens of clinical trials have proven nitrate can reproduce every single benefit of vegetables including reducing high blood pressure, improving exercise performance and endurance, preventing vascular inflammation, improving diabetes, obesity, Alzheimers, kidney function, etc.
Moreover, studies have shown that the Japanese diet has one of the highest amounts of nitrate and Japan is one of the healthiest nations on Earth and has more people that live over the age of 100 than any other nation.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet works because of the nitrate content. Nitrate also explains the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet.
Furthermore, there is clear evidence on the mechanism of action of nitrate.
It is metabolized into nitrite and nitric oxide and nitric oxide is what causes all of the health benefits above. If the science is so clear and undisputed, then why are Americans mostly deficient in nitrate?
Nitrate Deficiency in Americans
Is nitrate deficiency responsible for the health crisis in America, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and many other diseases?
In order to answer these important and profound questions, let’s walk through how the human body works and processes nitrate.
There are three steps and considerations to ensure you are getting sufficient nitrate that can then be metabolized into nitrate.
Three Steps for Nitrate Metabolism into Nitric oxide
- You must consume at least 300 mg of nitrate in a single meal in order to get the health benefits. Anything less, as shown in clinical trials, will not lower blood pressure or improve performance of any kind. So how many vegetables do you need to eat in order to get 300 mg of nitrate? This is impossible to predict based on our study several years ago showing there is much as a 50 fold difference in nitrate content of the same vegetable depending on where and how it is grown. Organically grown vegetables have on average about 10 times less nitrate than conventionally grown vegetables. It is estimated that Americans only consume roughly 150 mg of nitrate per day based on the Standard American diet. It is clear we are nitrate deficient as well as many Americans are deficient in magnesium, selenium, chromium, iodine and many other nutrients.
- There are certain and specific nitrate reducing bacteria that live in our mouth that are responsible for converting nitrate into nitrite and nitric oxide. These bacteria have been identified and studies also reveal that people who lack these bacteria cannot utilize nitrate from their diet to make nitric oxide and therefore do not get the benefits of a plant based or high vegetable diet. Lack of these bacteria are also associated with higher blood pressure and higher risk of many diseases. Why? As many as 200 million Americans use antiseptic mouthwash every day. Mouthwash has been shown to kill these good bacteria and prevent nitrate from being converted into nitrite and nitric oxide. This is roughly 2/3 of American population. Is it surprising now that 2 out of 3 Americans suffer from high blood pressure? I think not. We have an explanation for that. Furthermore, many Americans suffer from gingivitis, periodontal disease and oral infections that disrupt the good nitric oxide generating bacterial communities.
- We need stomach acid to make nitric oxide from nitrate and nitrite. Nitrate is converted into nitrite by the oral bacteria. As a result, our saliva becomes enriched and concentrated with nitrite. When we swallow our own saliva, the nitrite in the saliva is converted into nitric oxide when it reaches the acid environment of the stomach. However, if there is no stomach acid being produced, there is no nitric oxide generated and this leads to a condition of nitric oxide insufficiency. There are over 200 million Americans that are prescribed antacids every year. This does not even include the ones that can be bought over the counter.
Based on these three simple facts and observations, it is no surprise why Americans are the sickest people on the planet.
How to Ensure You Get Sufficient Nitrate
The good news is that we can now address each step of the process to ensure your body gets sufficient nitrate, an essential nutrient, but can also metabolize it into the health promoting molecules of nitrite and nitrate. Follow these steps below:
Eat more green leafy vegetables (200-300 grams per day).
Organically grown vegetables have less nitrate so it is unlikely you will be able to get sufficient nitrate from organic vegetables. If this is not practical, then take a supplement or a product that is standardized with a known amount of nitrate. These products are available.
Evidence also reveals that taking nitrate will also help with our oral microbiome to help the good nitrate reducing bacteria repopulate.
Stop using mouthwash and fluoride toothpastes. Antiseptic mouthwashes are bad. There is clear evidence that daily use of mouthwash causing an increase in blood pressure.
Fluoride is also an antiseptic that kills the bad and good bacteria in the mouth. Use a fluoride free toothpaste. Get a oral exam and make sure you have no active oral infection, including root canals. Most root canaled teeth are infected.
If you want to know if you have the right oral nitrate reducing bacteria, use a salivary nitric oxide/nitrite test strip and test your saliva before and 90 minutes after taking a nitrate supplement or after consuming green leafy vegetables.
If the test strips turns bright pink then you have the right oral bacteria.
Stop using antacids. Without stomach acid, we cannot make nitric oxide. We need several nutrients in order to make nitric oxide. These include iodine, zinc, thiamine and sodium chloride.
Most Americans are deficient in iodine and zinc so you must supplement your diet with these and other nutrients in order to make sufficient stomach acid.
In my more than 20 years of research in science and medicine, I’ve witnessed hundreds if not thousands of people that have benefitted from these simple steps.
The science is clear.
Most, if not all chronic diseases are caused by nutrient deficiencies.
It is clear to me that nitrate may be one of the overlooked and most important nutrients that most Americans are missing. Taking steps to restore and replete nitrate along with supporting its metabolism into nitrite and nitric oxide will profoundly impact the health of Americans and everyone around the world.
Think about how simple this is.