Want more efficient muscles? Eat your spinach

February 1, 2011, Cell Press

Want more efficient muscles? Eat your spinach
(PhysOrg.com) -- After taking a small dose of inorganic nitrate for three days, healthy people consume less oxygen while riding an exercise bike. A new study in the February issue of Cell Metabolism traces that improved performance to increased efficiency of the mitochondria that power our cells.

The researchers aren't recommending anyone begin taking inorganic nitrate supplements based on the new findings. Rather, they say that the results may offer one explanation for the well-known health benefits of fruits and vegetables, and leafy green vegetables in particular.

"We're talking about an amount of nitrate equivalent to what is found in two or three red beets or a plate of ," said Eddie Weitzberg of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. "We know that diets rich in fruits and vegetables can help prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes but the active nutrients haven't been clear. This shows inorganic nitrate as a candidate to explain those benefits."

In fact, up until recently nitrate wasn't thought to have any at all. It has even been suggested that this component of vegetables might be toxic. But Weitzberg and his colleague Jon Lundberg earlier showed that dietary nitrate feeds into a pathway that produces nitric oxide with the help of friendly bacteria found in our mouths. Nitric oxide has been known for two decades as a physiologically important molecule. It opens up our to lower blood pressure, for instance.

The new study offers yet another benefit of nitrate and the nitric oxides that stem from them. It appears that the increased mitochondrial efficiency is owed to lower levels of proteins that normally make the cellular powerhouses leaky. " normally aren't fully efficient," Weitzberg explained. "No machine is."

Questions do remain. The new results show that increased dietary nitrate can have a rather immediate effect. But it's not yet clear what might happen in people who consume higher levels of inorganic nitrate over longer periods of time. Weitzberg says it will be a natural next step to repeat the experiment in people with conditions linked to mitochondrial dysfunction, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, to see if they too enjoy the benefits of nitrates.

"Among the more consistent findings from nutritional research are the beneficial effects of a high intake of fruit and vegetables in protection against major disorders such as and diabetes," the researchers concluded. "However, the underlying mechanism(s) responsible for these effects is still unclear, and trials with single nutrients have generally failed. It is tempting to speculate that boosting of the nitrate-nitrite-NO pathway may be one mechanism by which vegetables exert their protective effects."

As an interesting aside, Weitzberg says that the benefits of dietary nitrates suggest that powerful mouthwashes may have a downside. "We need oral bacteria for the first step in nitrate reduction," he says. "You could block the effects of inorganic nitrate if you use a strong mouthwash or spit [instead of swallowing your saliva]. In our view, strong mouthwashes are not good if you want this system to work."

Explore further: Nitrates in vegetables protect against gastric ulcers

More information: Filip J Larsen, Tomas A Schiffer, Sara Borniquel, Kent Sahlin, Björn Ekblom,Jon O Lundberg, Eddie Weitzberg, Dietary inorganic nitrate improves mitochondrial efficiency in humans, Cell Metabolism, 2 February 2011

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1 / 5 (2) Feb 01, 2011
Or you could just not brush your teeth. Like me. Yep....I'm the healthiest guy on the planet.

Is this usable as a reference for the popular NO supplements? Does it even apply? Do I need to chew my shake, as it were, for this effect to apply?
5 / 5 (3) Feb 01, 2011
I'm confused. I thought a study last year was saying that numerous studies showed that nitrates added to meats would cause a much lower life expectancy if more than one serving a week was ingested."Processed meats come with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes" May 17, 2010. Maybe it was the salt in the processed meat, instead of the nitrates, that was causing the problem???
5 / 5 (1) Feb 01, 2011
I'm also confused about the differences between nitrates in processed meat and beets/spinach
2.6 / 5 (5) Feb 01, 2011
Arginine as a supplement will increase the nitric oxide level in your bloodstream. It'll make your johnson stand at attention.
4.3 / 5 (6) Feb 01, 2011
I'm strong to the finich
Cause I eats me spinach.
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man!
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 02, 2011
Yup, that's not news, Popeye knew this when tv was still in B&W
1 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2011
Nitric oxide is what basically makes Viagra works.
Intake of inorganis nitrate increases nitric oxide...
Amonium nitrate as in fertilizer is inorganic nitrate...

Anybody game enough to try some fertilizer, in the name of scientific research? :-)
2.1 / 5 (7) Feb 02, 2011
It is a pity that people do not read the article properly and or try to attempt to understand its content.
Not one of the above "contributors" have any understanding of the article.
It is clear that they have a need to post something, anything to get their "name" out there. Would you please leave Physorg and use twitter that is where ignorance is valued.
The article spoke only about the benefits of dietary Nitrate, i.e. nitrate found naturally in foods such as (but not necessarily exclusively) red beets and spinach.
Please pay attention in future.
Remember it is better to remain silent and to be thought a fool, than to speak (or in this case post) and remove all doubt.
2.6 / 5 (5) Feb 03, 2011
It is a pity that people do not read the article properly and or try to attempt to understand its content...

Big pompous statement, Big Brother style. The body does not give a feck where a particular chemical comes from. And you think taking hemlock is different than oenanthotoxin directly? Or sodium and potassium from diet are getting preferential treatment by the body than other paths of ingestion? If you are trying to be helpful with your snide high brow remarks, please use the quote function. It's quite easy to understand, you know?
3 / 5 (4) Feb 05, 2011
It is clear that they have a need to post something, anything to get their "name" out there.

Remember it is better to remain silent and to be thought a fool, than to speak (or in this case post) and remove all doubt.

Try taking your own advice.

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