Nitric Oxide and Light Being Presentation
Nitric Oxide may Boost Brain Function
Fuzzy memory, forgetfulness, poor concentration, and even dementia may be caused in part due to the lack of oxygen to the brain. Your body and even your brain can’t be truly healthy unless you are generating optimal amounts of nitric oxide leading to optimum blood flow and nutrient delivery. You brain, while only about 2% of your body’s mass consumes an astounding 25% of your body’s requirement of oxygen. A lack of adequate blood flow to the brain bringing in nutrients and removing wastes, increases your risks for neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other dementias. A lack of blood flow can also cause a reduction in brain performance.
From the Neurology Journal: “About one quart of blood normally flows through the brain every minute. If the amount of blood flow is less than it should be, the brain cannot work efficiently. This can lead to memory loss and other symptoms.”
Nitric oxide is a signaling molecule in the body that tells the blood vessels to expand, allowing more blood and oxygen to flow to the organs and tissues. And once you hit about 40 years old, your body only produces about half of the nitric oxide it produced when you were younger. But it is essential to proper tissue function, especially the brain. Nitric oxide allows the blood vessels to open, bringing in more oxygen to the brain while removing waste products. So proper amounts of nitric oxide can help keep your brain younger, longer.
Not only does nitric oxide increase blood and oxygen flow to the brain, it also appears to be a key signaling molecule between brain cells. Medical Research Council (MRC) Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester shows that nitric oxide can affect the brains computational ability. NO has the ability to carry information between neurons without using the synapses. This makes NO very powerful, but also an overdose very toxic. Because nitric oxide only exists for such a short time before it is metabolized, it has proven difficult to study. However, the results so far have been exciting!
Nitric oxide is a vital molecule produced in your body that impacts many aspects of health.
It helps blood vessels dilate to promote proper blood flow and may provide various health benefits, including improved exercise performance, lower blood pressure and better brain function (1, 2, 3, 4).
Switching up your diet is one of the best and most effective ways to naturally boost levels of this important molecule. Here are the 10 best foods to boost your nitric oxide levels. The 10 Best Foods to Boost Nitric Oxide Levels:
Beets are rich in dietary nitrates, which your body can convert to nitric oxide.
According to one study in 38 adults, consuming a beetroot juice supplement increased nitric oxide levels by 21% after just 45 minutes (5).
Similarly, another study showed that drinking 3.4 ounces (100 ml) of beetroot juice significantly increased nitric oxide levels in both men and women (6).
Thanks to their rich content of dietary nitrates, beets have been linked to a number of health benefits, including improved cognitive function, enhanced athletic performance and lower blood pressure levels (7, 8, 9).
Summary Beets are high in nitrates, which can significantly increase levels of nitric oxide in your body.
Garlic can boost nitric oxide levels by activating nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme that aids in the conversion of nitric oxide from the amino acid L-arginine (10).
One animal study showed that aged garlic extract temporarily increased blood nitric oxide levels by up to 40% within an hour of consumption (11).
Another test-tube study found that aged garlic extract also helped maximize the amount of nitric oxide that can be absorbed by the body (12).
Both human and animal studies indicate that garlic’s ability to increase nitric oxide levels may have a beneficial effect on health and can help lower blood pressure and improve exercise tolerance (13, 14).
Summary Garlic can enhance the bioavailability of nitric oxide and may increase levels of nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme that converts L-arginine to nitric oxide.
Organ meats, fatty fish and muscle meats like beef, chicken and pork contain the highest concentration of CoQ10.
Summary Meat, poultry and seafood are high in CoQ10, a key compound that helps preserve nitric oxide in your body.
4. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is loaded with flavanols — naturally occurring compounds that boast an extensive list of powerful health benefits.
One 15-day study in 16 people showed that consuming 30 grams of dark chocolate daily led to significant increases in nitric oxide levels in the blood.
What’s more, participants experienced decreases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels — the top and bottom number of the blood pressure reading (22).
Because of its rich content of nitric-oxide-boosting flavanols, dark chocolate has been associated with improved blood flow, enhanced brain function and a lower risk of heart disease, too (23, 24, 25).
Summary Dark chocolate is high in cocoa flavanols, which increase levels of nitric oxide to promote heart health and prevent cell damage.
5. Leafy Greens
According to one review, regular consumption of nitrate-rich foods like green leafy vegetables can help maintain sufficient levels of nitric oxide in the blood and tissues (27).
One study even showed that eating a nitrate-rich meal containing spinach increased salivary nitrate levels eightfold and significantly decreased systolic blood pressure (the top number) (28).
Summary Leafy green vegetables are high in dietary nitrates, which can be converted to nitric oxide and may help maintain proper levels in your blood and tissues.
6. Citrus Fruits
Vitamin C can enhance levels of nitric oxide by increasing its bioavailability and maximizing its absorption in the body (32).
Studies indicate that citrus fruit consumption may be linked to decreased blood pressure, improved brain function and a lower risk of heart disease — all of which may be due in part to their ability to boost nitric oxide levels (35, 36, 37).
Summary Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, which can enhance the bioavailability of nitric oxide and increase levels of nitric oxide synthase.
Pomegranate is loaded with potent antioxidants that can protect your cells against damage and preserve nitric oxide.
One test-tube study showed that pomegranate juice was effective in protecting nitric oxide from oxidative damage while also increasing its activity (38).
Another animal study found that both pomegranate juice and pomegranate fruit extract were able to increase levels of nitric oxide synthase and boost the concentration of nitrates in the blood (39).
Human and animal studies have found that antioxidant-rich pomegranate can improve blood flow, which may be especially beneficial in treating conditions like high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction (40, 41).
Summary Pomegranate can help protect nitric oxide against damage, enhance the activity of nitric oxide and increase levels of nitric oxide synthesis.
8. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in arginine, a type of amino acid that is involved in the production of nitric oxide.
Some research suggests that including arginine from foods like nuts and seeds in your diet can help increase nitric oxide levels in your body.
For example, one study in 2,771 people showed that a higher intake of arginine-rich foods was associated with higher levels of nitric oxide in the blood (42).
Another small study found that supplementing with arginine increased levels of nitric oxide after just two weeks (43).
Thanks to their arginine content and stellar nutrient profile, regularly eating nuts and seeds has been associated with lower blood pressure, improved cognition and increased endurance (44, 45, 46, 47).
Summary Nuts and seeds are high in arginine, an amino acid needed for the production of nitric oxide.
Watermelon is one of the best sources of citrulline, an amino acid that’s converted to arginine and, ultimately, nitric oxide in your body.
One small study found that citrulline supplements helped stimulate nitric oxide synthesis after just a few hours but noted that it may take longer to see positive effects on health (48).
Meanwhile, another study in eight men showed that drinking 10 ounces (300 ml) of watermelon juice for two weeks led to significant improvements in nitric oxide bioavailability (49).
Recent research suggests that upping your intake of watermelon not only enhances nitric oxide levels but can also improve exercise performance, decrease blood pressure and boost blood flow (50).
Summary Watermelon is high in citrulline, which is converted to arginine and then later used in the production of nitric oxide.
10. Red Wine
Interestingly, some studies have found that drinking red wine could also increase levels of nitric oxide.
One test-tube study showed that treating cells with red wine increased levels of nitric oxide synthase, an enzyme involved in the production of nitric oxide (52).
Another test-tube study had similar findings, reporting that certain compounds found in red wine enhanced nitric oxide synthase and increased the release of nitric oxide from the cells that line the blood vessels (53).
Summary Red wine can increase levels of nitric oxide synthase, which can help enhance nitric oxide levels.
The Bottom Line
Nitric oxide is a crucial compound involved in many aspects of health, including blood pressure regulation, athletic performance and brain function.
Making a few simple swaps in your diet can be an easy and effective way to increase your levels of nitric oxide naturally.
Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy protein foods can optimize nitric oxide levels while also promoting better overall health in the process.
Written by Rachael Link, MS, RD on September 25, 2018
5 Ways to Increase Nitric Oxide Naturally
Nitric oxide is a molecule that’s produced naturally by your body, and it’s important for many aspects of your health.
Its most important function is vasodilation, meaning it relaxes the inner muscles of the blood vessels, causing them to widen and increase circulation.
Nitric oxide production is essential for overall health because it allows blood, nutrients and oxygen to travel to every part of your body effectively and efficiently.
In fact, a limited capacity to produce nitric oxide is associated with heart disease, diabetes and erectile dysfunction.
Fortunately, there are many ways to maintain optimal levels of nitric oxide in your body.
Here are the top 5 ways to increase nitric oxide naturally.
1. Eat Vegetables High in Nitrates
Nitrate, a compound found in certain vegetables, is one of the many reasons vegetables are healthy for you.
Vegetables high in nitrate include (1):
When these foods are consumed, nitrates are converted into nitric oxide, which confers a wide range of health benefits related to heart health and exercise performance.
Despite the effects that nitrates have on nitric oxide production in your body, some people avoid them for fear they are harmful and contribute to cancer.
This is likely because sodium nitrates are commonly used as a preservative and color fixative in bacon, cold cuts and hot dogs.
Nitrates can form N-nitroso compounds, such as nitrosamine, which are capable of causing cancer.
However, vegetables, which account for more than 80 percent of nitrate intake, contain antioxidants like vitamin C, which help prevent the formation of N-nitroso compounds (12).
Summary Vegetables are good sources of nitrates, which help form nitric oxide in your body. Consuming nitrate-rich vegetables improves heart health and exercise performance.
2. Increase Your Intake of Antioxidants
Nitric oxide is an unstable molecule that degrades quickly in the bloodstream, so it must be constantly replenished (14).
One way to increase its stability and limit its breakdown is by consuming antioxidants.
Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize free radicals, which contribute to the short life of nitric oxide (15).
These antioxidants are found in all foods but primarily those of plant origin, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains.
A few important antioxidants include:
Vitamin C: This antioxidant helps your body form connective tissues, including skin, bones, tendons and cartilage. It also produces brain chemicals that help nerve cells communicate (16).
Vitamin E: This antioxidant protects cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, which are thought to contribute to aging and disease. It also plays an important role in keeping the immune system strong (17, 18).
Polyphenols: This category of antioxidants is associated with several health benefits, including a reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease (19).
Glutathione: Coined “the mother of all antioxidants,” glutathione is the master antioxidant and detoxifier of every cell in your body.
Several studies have found that ingesting nitric oxide precursors, such as nitrate or citrulline, with antioxidants maintains greater levels of nitric oxide in your body by helping reduce its breakdown (20, 21, 22, 23).
Vegetables that are high in nitrate are also inherently high in antioxidants, which is likely why vegetables are so effective at increasing and maintaining optimal levels of nitric oxide (3).
Summary Antioxidants help decrease the breakdown and extend the life of nitric oxide in your body.
3. Use Nitric-Oxide-Boosting Supplements
Several dietary supplements are marketed as “nitric oxide boosters.”
These supplements don’t contain nitric oxide itself, but they include ingredients that help form nitric oxide in your body.
Two of the most commonly used ingredients are L-arginine and L-citrulline.
L-arginine is a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning it only has to be consumed in the diet under certain conditions, while healthy adults can make all they need (24).
It directly produces nitric oxide through a process called the L-arginine-NO pathway.
Several studies support the use of L-arginine for increasing blood flow, but only in certain populations.
L-citrulline is a dispensable amino acid, meaning your body can make all it needs.
When L-arginine is converted to nitric oxide, L-citrulline is produced as a byproduct.
L-citrulline can then be recycled back to L-arginine and used to increase your body’s natural production of nitric oxide.
In fact, L-citrulline increases levels of L-arginine in your body more than supplementing with L-arginine itself does. This is because a large percentage of L-arginine is broken down before reaching your bloodstream (35).
L-citrulline is considered relatively safe, and there is a low risk of side effects, even with high doses (40).
Summary The amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline are used to produce nitric oxide in your body. They are available as supplements and have beneficial effects on vascular health and blood flow.
4. Limit Your Use of Mouthwash
Mouthwash destroys bacteria in your mouth that can contribute to the growth of cavities and other dental diseases.
Unfortunately, mouthwash kills all types of bacteria, including the beneficial ones that help produce nitric oxide.
Special bacteria in the mouth convert nitrate to nitric oxide. In fact, humans cannot produce nitric oxide from nitrate without these bacteria (41).
The detrimental effects of mouthwash on nitric oxide production may even contribute to the development of diabetes, which is characterized by malfunctions in insulin production or action.
This is because nitric oxide also regulates insulin, which helps cells utilize the energy obtained from food after it’s digested. Without nitric oxide, insulin cannot work properly.
One study found that people who used mouthwash at least twice daily were 65% more likely to develop diabetes than those who never used mouthwash (46).
Therefore, to maintain adequate nitric oxide production, it’s best to use mouthwash sparingly.
Summary Mouthwash kills many types of bacteria in the mouth, including the ones that help produce nitric oxide. This limits your body’s ability to produce nitric oxide, which can lead to high blood pressure and diabetes.
5. Get Your Blood Flowing With Exercise
Exercise really does get your blood pumping, largely because it improves endothelial function.
Endothelium refers to the thin layer of cells that line the blood vessels. These cells produce nitric oxide, which keeps blood vessels healthy.