Nitric Oxide regulates blood pressure by dilating arteries – eat those leafy greens!

If you’re among the worlds’ millions of hypertension sufferers, grab a spinach leaf and read this article.

Nitric Oxide, chemically known as NO, is a simple molecule with a lot of responsibility – think of it as the Little Engine that Could. We’re not talking about its use in the semiconductor industry, but its ability to regulate blood pressure by dilating arteries.

In fact, the discovery of its importance garnered three scientists the coveted Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1998. In 1992, the journal Science named NO ‘Molecule of the Year’ – an award for the most significant development in scientific research.

Found naturally in almost all types of organisms, from bacteria to plants, fungi, and our cells, NO is a powerful vasodilator ― it relaxes narrowed blood vessels, increasing oxygen and blood flow.


Of note to all the fitness buffs and professional athletes out there, raised levels of NO also increase performance and endurance and protect blood vessels from vascular aging ― the gradual change of the vascular structure and function that increases hardening of the arteries. Nitroglycerin, yes of the contact explosive fame, has been prescribed in medication by doctors for heart and stroke patients since the late 1800s, because it converts into NO ― if plaque builds up in your inner cells (atherosclerosis) where NO is produced, you produce less of it.

While there have been around 60,000 studies on nitric oxide in the last 20 years, one interesting find was that people with atherosclerosis, diabetes, or hypertension often showed impaired NO pathways. The study also indicated that a high salt intake reduced NO production in patients with essential hypertension, which is the most common type of high blood pressure, affecting 95 percent of patients. Yip, another reminder that salt is a seasoning not a main course!

The good news is that our bodies can actually turn the nitrate in vegetables into NO. It’s no wonder that dark green leafy vegetables are the bottom line in every respected diet for the treatment and prevention of hypertension and heart disease.

Taking Nitric Oxide biology to the next level, Berkeley Test has released an iPhone App to track personal success of NO-rich, plant-based diets in improving your cardiovascular health.

Have a heart; don’t say NO to leafy vegetables!

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