When we last visited our hero, NO, he was springing forth from
Beet Juice, L-arginine, and Citrulline.
Well, after a bit of research, we can find our hero almost
everywhere, just waiting to take on heart disease and strokes,
though, because of a perspicacious (love that word) reader who sent us a
bit of info we'd missed, there can be a downside. You'll see this at
the end of the article.
First, we’ll touch on what NO does and how it is produce. Okay?
Nitric Oxide, or NO, is a “gaseous signaling molecule” in the
lining (endothelium) of our arteries. Signaling is part of
communication. Every system in our body works best when there is
communication, and events are all perfectly orchestrated through
this communication. When there’s a break in communication, say a
necessary chemical is missing, a signaling molecule will communicate
to all systems to get to work and either find this missing chemical
or manufacture it.
Thus one of NO’s jobs is to communicate between the nerves and
the brain. Additionally, it has a role in our immune system in
fighting off invaders and playing defense against tumors. For this
NO is generated by our phagocytes when signaled by interferon or TNF
(tumor necrosis factor). NO also improves sleep, reduces
inflammation, increases strength and endurance, and helps out in
moving our food thru the digestive system.
What we focused on previously in two of our recent articles (last
quarter of 2015) was how NO helps prevent strokes and normalizes
blood pressure, though for us doddering old men, it has a sizable
part in helping erectile dysfunction.
It’s the NO’s cardioprotective function we are most interested in
for this discussion, but first here’s a little fun fact for you: NO
was used in medicine more than 100 years before it was actually
In 1847, Ascanio Sobrero discovered that NG (nitroglycerine)
caused almost an immediate headache when a small amount was applied
to the tongue. Not long afterwards, NG was further diluted to
produce a homeopathic remedy for headaches, following the doctrine
of “like cures like.” [A
short history of nitroglycerine and nitric oxide in pharmacology and
The gas, Nitric Oxide, NO, was discovered in 1998 and the
discoverers won the Nobel Prize in medicine because NO was a
critical factor in preventing hypertension (high blood pressure),
heart disease, and stroke.
These scientists went on to discover ways of boosting NO levels
in the body and settled on the amino acid L-arginine which triggers
an enzyme (eNOS) that makes NO.
Drinks all around.
However, there turned out to be a fly in the ointment.
There seemed to be a cut-off age for NO’s effectiveness. The L-arginine
pathway has been found to lose its effectiveness in middle aged men
(when hypertension and heart disease really starts taking its toll),
and even worse it can do damage. People who’ve had heart attacks get
no NO from this particular pathway, and people with heart disease
can be pushed over the edge taking L-arginine supplements; we found
a study in which six subjects died while taking large doses of L-arginine.
Luckily, there are other pathways to manufacturing NO in the
body, and (you’re going to love this) one is called
“nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway.” [Wikipedia]
nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway in physiology and therapeutics.]
This pathway was first suggested to us by the father of medicine,
Hippocrates when he said: “Let your food be your medicine . . . .”
The nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway takes foods rich in
dietary nitrates and nitrites and converts them to NO.
And these foods will be found in the produce section or at your
local farmer’s market for the most part. You’ll see that you can get
an NO booster from the meat counter too, but the fewer chemicals the
better when choosing meat and fish.
NO is a free radical! Once created, NO has a very short half-life
of just a few seconds!
Having learned this, I came across an article that claimed orange
juice would protect my NO against free radicals and I didn’t know
what to think. Also, this short half-life occurs after NO hits the
The thing is, in its short lifespan, NO attenuates quite nicely
(spreads out) into the endothelial tissues to relax your arteries
and lower your blood pressure.
And get this: the moment sunlight hits your skin NO is released
into your bloodstream. [Sunshine
could benefit health and prolong life, study suggests.]
So, let us go over the benefits for NO one more time.
- Anti-hypertensive (maintains healthy blood pressure)
- Oxygenation: elevates oxygen delivery during exercise and
increases stamina because you need less oxygen and improves
- Anti-Acid: lowers lactic acid following exercise.
- Cardioprotective: slows vascular aging.
- Immunosupportive: prevents and fights inflammation
We’re going to end with foods (and a few supplements) that boost
NO levels (nitric oxide potency). We’re listing them from the
biggest producers to the least.
Beet Juice/Super Beets
Ecklonia Cava Extract (found at
Simply the Best)
Pomegranate & Pomegranate Juice
Red Beet Roots
Wild Salmon (CoQ10)
Grape Seed Extract
The Downside of NO
Yes, there is a downside. NO stimulates some viruses, like
herpes. So you have to weigh the good and the bad.
Instead of me telling you all this, I’ll let Joey Lott tell you
in his article:
Is Nitric Oxide Good Or Bad?
He’s got some great things to tell you; however, we’ve
prescribed, in the past, a
lot of his recommendations, and if they’re not working
for you, say, you still have a bit of high blood pressure, adding NO
potentiating foods to your regimen might be something to consider.
Additionally, since I play tennis and work out, I ignore the
downside to NO.