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Nitrate

Inorganic nitrate (NO3-) is an endogenously produced food product that appears to have a critical role in blood pressure and cardiovascular health management; the main ingredient in beetroot, nitrate converts to nitric oxide by various means independent of the NOS enzyme and may aid exercise.

Our evidence-based analysis on nitrate features 253 unique references to scientific papers.

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Summary of Nitrate

Primary information, health benefits, side effects, usage, and other important details

Nitrate (NO3-) is a small molecule produced in the body to limited amounts (as a byproduct of nitric oxide) and is obtainable via consumption of vegetables, particularly beetroot and other low-calorie tuber vegetables such as turnips and leafy green vegetables such as spinach or rocket. It appears to be a potent regulatory of blood flow and vasodilatation via its metabolite nitric oxide, and has greater relative affinity for areas of the body with poor oxygenation as the conversion of nitrite (NO2-, a metabolite of nitrate) to nitric oxide is undergone by deoxygenated blood.

In regards to cardiovascular health, it appears to reduce blood pressure in instances where blood pressure is raised. This appears to occur in people with hypertension and can occur in otherwise healthy persons undergoing exercise with little effect on resting blood pressure in healthy persons. It may exert endothelial protective effects, and is thought to be a link between vegetable intake and cardiovascular health.

It appears to enhance exercise performance secondary to reducing the oxygen cost of exercise (and thus prolonging time to exhaustion, thought to be due to increased mitochondrial efficiency). There is little to no effect on acute power output, but seems to reduce the rate of fatigue seen with continued muscle contractions and as such seems to have most benefit in exercises ranging from 1 minutes up to 10 minutes and as such exerts most benefit during anaerobic cardiovascular exercise or muscular endurance events (sports requiring anaerobic intervals such as hockey or rugby, some benefit to rowing and crossfit-type exercises) but although it does have benefit to prolonged cardiovascular exercise (5km jogs or 10km cycling events) the magnitude of effect appears to be lesser.

Due to interactions with nitric oxide, it appears to also be kidney protective and may help to regulate blood flow during the aging process (which is associated with reduced nitrate levels in circulation); the anti-aging effects, however, are preliminary at this moment in time. Due to endogenous production of nitrate and some disease states with lower circulating nitrate (cardiovascular diseases and aging) nitrate may have pseudovitamin-like properties but more evidence is required to support this claim.

Nitrate has the potential to form carcinogenic nitrosamines, although the practical significance of this in living systems is not known (epidemiological survey research has failed to show a significant link after controlling for other confounds, but some nitrosamines themselves are proven carcinogenic; practical relevance of nitrates and subsequently forming nitrosamines following supplemental or vegetable intake in a mixed diet is not really known). Although the carcinogenic potential cannot be ruled out at this time, it cannot be supported reliably either.

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How to Take

Medical Disclaimer

Recommended dosage, active amounts, other details

The optimal dosage of nitrate supplementation tends to be 0.1-0.2mmol/kg (or 6.4-12.8mg/kg), which is the range of:

  • 440-870mg for a 150lb person

  • 580-1,160mg for a 200lb person

  • 730-1,450mg for a 250lb person

Supplementation of nitrates via beetroot is equally feasible, and beetroot itself is dosed according to its nitrate content.

A randomized controlled trial noted that a single 2g dose of commercially available amaranth (red spinach) extract can increase nitrate levels for up to 8 hours.

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Human Effect Matrix

Unlocked for Examine Plus members

The Human Effect Matrix summarizes human studies to tell you what effects Nitrate has on your body, how much evidence there is, and how strong these effects are.

Full details are available to Examine Plus members.
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Notes
grade-b Notable Moderate See all 7 studies
Appears to be a fairly potent blood pressure reducing agent during periods of high blood pressure (at rest during disease states or during exercise in healthy persons) without having a reducing effect when blood pressure is normalized. There may be no effect on people on hypertensive medications, though.
grade-c Strong Very High See all 3 studies
Nitrate ingestion strongly and fairly reliabily increases plasma nitrate and nitrite.
grade-c Notable - See study
The increase in performance on a sprint test appeared to be fairly significant, and pending more evidence nitrates may be a reference comparator.
grade-c Notable Very High See 2 studies
A notable reduction in the oxygenation cost of exercise associated with nitrate supplementation.
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
The performance enhancing aspect of nitrate supplementation in prolonged aerobic exercise is less than that seen in shorter duration cardiovascular exercise, and is only somewhat effective for longer periods.
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
Appears to preserve exercise performance during insufficient oxygen, but not to a remarkable degree
grade-c Minor Moderate See 2 studies
May reduce the rate of perceived exertion in some instances (prolonged cardiovascular exercise), but is not highly reliable.
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on blood flow in studies that use flow-mediated vasodilation
grade-c - - See study
Short-term supplementation failed to restore cognitive decline in older persons, no evidence as to whether nitrate exerts a preventative effect.
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence has been noted on functional tests in elderly persons given nitrate supplementation
grade-c - Very High See all 3 studies
Does not appear to significantly influence heart rate
grade-c - - See study
No significant observed effects on insulin sensitivity.
grade-c - - See study
No significant effect on acute power output

Studies Excluded from Consideration

Note: The above human trials table contains studies comparing beetroot with nitrate against a placebo of beetroot without nitrate, as the only bioactive difference is due to nitrate

  • Used sodium nitrate (active compound) rather than whole beetroot juice[2]

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Frequently Asked Questions and Articles on Nitrate

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Are nitrates from beetroot and processed meats the same thing?
Although the food products they are gained via differ widely, the nitrates contained in processed meats and vegetables are the same molecules
What is creatine nitrate?
Creatine nitrate is simply a more water-soluble version of creatine. It is not more potent than regular creatine monohydrate.
How can I make red meat healthier?
Marinade it before cooking and don't burn the heck out of it
Is processed meat bad for me?
Processed meat products are associated with cancer and mortality in survey research, but to a small degree. They are likely unhealthy, technically speaking, but the increase in mortality/cancer is overblown.

Things to Note

Is a Form Of

Other Functions:

Primary Function:

Also Known As

Beetroot extract

Do Not Confuse With

Nitrite (reduced form), nitric oxide (metabolite)

  • Many studies measure nitrate in millimoles (mmol) rather than grams. The conversion rate as it pertains to inorganic nitrate is 62mg for every mmol[1]

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Click here to see all 253 references.