What do I Mean by the Power of NO?
This week I have been reading and researching NO. I’m not talking about the word “NO,” but the molecule NO (made up of one atom of Nitrogen and one atom of Oxygen). I’m talking about “nitric oxide.” I’ve been learning about NO from reading various articles on the WWW and also the book “The Nitric Oxide (NO) Solution” by Dr. Nathan Bryan of the Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine, School of Medicine, and University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
Dr. Bryan’s research is directed to understanding the interactions of exogenous dietary nitrate/nitrite on the endogenous NO/cGMP pathway and how perturbations (agitations) in each system affect cardiovascular health. The other authors are Dr. Janet Zand and Bill Gottlieb.
I’ve been learning that NO or nitrate oxide can do many helpful things in our bodies such as:
Help prevent high blood pressure,
Help keep our arteries young and more flexible,
Help slow or even reverse the buildup of plaque in our arteries and stop the formation of blood clots,
Help lower cholesterol,
Help reduce the risk of diabetes and its complications,
Help limit swelling and pain of arthritis,
Help reverse erectile dysfunction,
Help reduce the inflammation of asthma,
Help protect our bones from osteoporosis,
Help the immune system in killing bacteria,
Help skin damage from sun exposure,
And basically help our overall health, especially that of our arteries and cardiovascular system.
Nitrite Oxide is actually a gas that can penetrate membranes and cells to “signal” arteries to relax and expand, immune cells to kill bacteria and cancer cells, and brain cells to commutate with each other. It is not nitrous oxide or laughing gas. NO works to keep our endothelium healthy. The endothelium is the lining inside all the blood vessels in our body (coronary arteries to the little capillaries within our tissues). It is actually only one cell thick, but very important to our circulatory health.
When it is healthy, our endothelium is smooth, allowing blood to flow freely. It is also very flexible and can expand or contract easily. Nitric oxide is manufactured in the endothelium in several ways. One way is when our body uses L-arginine (an amino acid obtained through protein foods) and combines it with oxygen to produce the NO. The gaseous NO diffuses from the endothelium into the underlying smooth muscle of our arteries and signals the muscles to relax and expand (called vasodilation). This increases the blood flow through our arteries allowing nutrients and oxygen to flow throughout our bodies.
If we do not have enough NO or it can’t do its work properly, our arteries can become tightened and the blood flow decreased. This causes our blood pressure to rise (called hypertension).
Hypertension is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. This increased pressure within our arteries damages the arterial walls and causes the buildup of plague. Bad LDL cholesterol becomes wedged in the damaged lining of the endothelial and begins to oxidize. This oxidation causes the endothelial to signal our immune system that damage is occurring. So the immune system sends white blood cells (monocytes) to the area of injury); they stick to the endothelium which signals more damage and the monocytes are turned into macrophages which should surround and dissolve foreign invaders. But instead they get stuck in the LDL.
This happens over and over and creates Plague. Plague is made up of white blood cells from our immune system and the blood factors called platelets. When they stick together, they become plague and cause inflammation. When this becomes chronic, inflammation, oxidation occurs and the plague can burst, releasing its contents into the blood stream to cause dangerous blood clots.
In 50% of people with CVD (cardiovascular disease), the first sign of heart disease is a sudden, deadly heart attack caused by the low-NO process. It can become a vicious cycle: high blood pressure, chronic inflammation and oxidation of the plague which decreases the body’s ability to make nitric oxide and causes CVD which causes the body make less NO and the cycle continues.
There are 81 million adults in America who have cardiovascular disease (CVD), almost one in every 3 persons. CVD is the leading cause of death in the US at 36 percent of all deaths.
Nitrate Oxide (NO) can help us keep our arteries smooth and flexible, clear of plague and reduce inflammation as well as help keep our body healthy in other ways by contributing to a healthy circulation system.
Where can we get nitrate oxide?
So, now that we have learned how important nitrite oxide is to our health, how can we make sure we have plenty of nitrite oxide in our bodies?
We can take L-arginine supplements. But those who already have CVD and a heart attack shouldn’t take these, as it can make things worse.
We can consume foods that provide nitrite oxide to our bodies.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is a good diet to use as it can
- Lower total cholesterol.
- Lower levels of c-reactive protein (a biomarker for chronic inflammation).
- Lower levels of hemoglobin A1C (a sign of good long-term blood sugar control). High blood glucose levels damage arteries.
- Lower fibrinogen (the protein that increases the chance of blood clots which cause heart attacks and strokes).
- Raise the level of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol which carries LDL cholesterol away from the heart).
- Lower triglycerides.
- Lower homocysteine (a biochemical linked to heart disease)
The green leafy vegetables in the Mediterranean diet are of great benefit, as they are rich in nitrate and nitrite (which creates nitric oxide in the body). The typical Mediterranean diet can contain up to 20 times more nitrate and nitrite than a typical Western diet.
Some of the best things to eat for us Westerners are:
The DASH Diet
The DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is another diet that is extremely helpful to prevent CVD. This diet asks for 8-10 servings of vegetable and fruits a day; and for low-fat dairy products
NOTE: I’ll be posting about both the Mediterranean and the DASH diets in future posts.
I’ve recently been reading about how the UV rays of the sun can trigger the production of NO in the body.
“Previously, studies have linked nitric acid and , to the point that researchers have said the heart health perk outweighs the skin cancer risk. Scientists noted that something specific about the UV rays might cause the blood-pressure benefit, perhaps explaining why vitamin D supplements have been shown to be less effective than simple sunlight exposure.”
The findings might also be one reason “sun seekers” live longer than those who don’t spend time in sunlight, Dr. Richard Weller, a dermatologist at the University of Edinburgh, said. “Studies such as this one are helping us to understand how the sun can be good for us. We need to remember that skin cancer is not the only disease that can kill us and should perhaps balance our advice on sun exposure.”
Read this article for more information.
In conclusion, we really need to consider
The “Power of dark leafy vegetables”
in our diet along with healthy exposure to sunlight, to help us maintain a healthy circulation system and reduce the chances of deadly CVD.
The book “The Nitric Oxide (NO) Solution” is available in various books stores and online. It is interesting, although slow reading because of the medical terms. I have access to this book and many more through my monthly subscription to Oyster Books. if you are interested in learning more about this subscription, click here.
Thanks for looking at my site and coming to this page. I would love for you to leave any questions or comments below. In addition, I’m open to new topics to research and comment on as they pertain to my own health and experience living with diabetes. Please share your interests and questions in your comments. I also love to hear others stories about how they handle their own diabetes issues.