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Nitrites and Nitrates Offer Cardiovascular Health Benefits, Study Finds

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

(American Meat Institute)

Nitrite and nitrite intake can play a valuable role in reducing blood pressure for those following the well-regarded DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Michigan State researcher Norman G. Hord collaborated with University of Texas Health Science Center researcher’s Yaoping Tang and Nathan Bryan in quantifying levels of nitrites and nitrates in high-nitrate or low-nitrate vegetable and fruit choices based on the DASH diet.  According to their analyses, the nitrate concentrations in these patterns – deemed healthy and even therapeutic – ranged as high as 550 percent above the World Health Organization’s (WHO) acceptable daily intake for the an average adult.

About 93 percent of percent human dietary nitrate intake comes from vegetables and saliva.  Nitrate in vegetables like spinach, lettuce and beets is converted to nitrite in the mouth.   Nitrite is used as a curing ingredient in meat to stabilize color and flavor and to prevent rancidity.  However, cured meats contribute less than five percent of total human nitrite intake, other studies show.

“These data call into question the rationale for recommendations to limit nitrate and nitrite consumption from plant foods; a comprehensive re-evaluation of the health effects of food sources of nitrates and nitrites is appropriate,” the authors wrote.  

“The DASH diet forms the basis for public dietary health recommendations in the United States (eg, MyPyramid.gov) and is widely recommended by private health agencies, such as the American Heart Association (101). Taken together, the data considered here support the conclusions of the European Food Safety Authority (66) that benefits of vegetable and fruit consumption outweigh any perceived risk of developing cancer from the consumption of nitrate and nitrite in these foods,” the researchers wrote.  “The strength of the evidence linking the consumption of nitrate- and nitrite-containing plant foods to beneficial health effects supports the consideration of these compounds as nutrients.”

The study was funded by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, Michigan State University, and the American Heart Association.

To view this study, click here: www.meatinstitute.org/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/50895

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