What is Nitric Oxide: Benefits, uses and facts

A tiny, gaseous molecule known as nitric oxide (NO) is essential for many physiological and pathological processes in the human body. It has the chemical formula NO and is made up of one nitrogen atom and one oxygen atom.

Nitric oxide has the ability to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow. Nitric oxide-producing supplements may potentially be helpful for treating specific medical disorders [1].

Can Nitric Oxide boost your heart health?

Yes, when produced and controlled properly, NO can have a positive effect on heart health. It is a powerful vasodilator that works to relax and expand blood vessels to improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. 

Several advantages for heart health may result from this, including:

  1. Lower blood pressure: Nitric oxide can help lower blood pressure by widening blood arteries, which lessens the strain on the heart and lowers the risk of consequences from hypertension.
  2. Improved blood flow: Vasodilation improves blood flow, which supports the heart’s and other organs’ optimal performance by allowing for the delivery of more oxygen and nutrients [2].
  3. Reduced arterial stiffness: NO helps keep blood arteries flexible, preventing them from stiffening and becoming less sensitive to variations in blood flow. This can reduce the risk and danger of cardiovascular illnesses like atherosclerosis.
  4. Prevention of blood clot formation: Inhibition of platelet adhesion and aggregation by nitric oxide lowers the danger of blood clots that can cause heart attacks or strokes.
  5. Protection of endothelium: The endothelium is a thin layer of cellular material that lines the inside surface of blood vessels. NO supports the endothelium’s health and integrity, which is essential for overall cardiovascular health.
Can Nitric Oxide boost your heart health?
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Key benefits of taking Nitric Oxide supplements

Supplements that increase the body’s synthesis of nitric oxide (NO) frequently include L-arginine, L-citrulline or other nitrate-rich substances.

These supplements’ main objective is to raise NO levels, which can have a number of important advantages:

1. Improved cardiovascular health

NO, which has vasodilatory properties as well as other regulatory functions, is crucial for maintaining and improving cardiovascular health.

By improving circulation and lowering blood pressure, this can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and other high blood pressure-related problems.

It also aids in keeping blood arteries flexible, preventing them from stiffening and becoming less sensitive to variations in blood flow [3]. This can reduce the risk of cardiovascular illnesses like atherosclerosis.

2. Enhanced exercise performance:

As a powerful vasodilator, NO aids in blood vessel relaxation and dilation, boosting blood flow to the muscles during exercise.

This increased blood flow guarantees that the working muscles receive greater oxygen and nutrition supply, boosting their overall function and efficiency.  

Nitric oxide-enhanced blood flow also aids in the removal of waste products like lactic acid that build up during exercise and contribute to muscular exhaustion.

Increased levels of NO can therefore aid in delaying the onset of muscle exhaustion, enabling longer and more intense exercises.

3. Better immune response

The immune system can be protected by NO against bacteria, viruses, fungi and other pathogens. It can help the body fight illnesses by directly killing pathogenic germs or preventing their development.

Additionally, it affects the activity and functionality of different immune cells in our body, including T-cells, neutrophils and macrophages [4].

It controls their capacity to recruit to infection sites, communicate with one another and kill pathogens.

4. Increased muscle strength and growth

Nitric oxide enhances blood flow and encourages effective waste clearance during exercise, which can postpone the onset of muscle tiredness. This enables longer and more intensive workouts, which may lead to increased muscular strength and development.

Studies have also shown that NO supplements may trigger the production of growth hormone and other chemicals that support the development and maintenance of lean muscle mass. 

5. Improved erectile function

Nitric oxide is released in the penile tissue during sexual excitement and is continuously created throughout the duration of the arousal. NO is continuously produced, ensuring that the blood vessels remain dilated and the penis remains upright.

Certain lifestyle adjustments and interventions may help increase NO levels and improve erectile function in men who experience erectile dysfunction due to decreased NO production or impaired blood flow.

These consist of regular physical activity, a nitrate-rich diet and stress reduction methods.

6. Better cognitive function

Strong vasodilators like nitric oxide assist to relax and expand blood vessels, improving blood flow to many parts of the body, including the brain [5].

An increase in cerebral blood flow guarantees that the brain’s cells receive greater oxygen and vital nutrients, supporting their general health and function. 

In the neurological system, it also functions as a neurotransmitter and a signaling molecule. It assists in controlling the production and absorption of other neurotransmitters that are crucial for learning, memory, mood and other cognitive processes, including as glutamate, dopamine and serotonin.

Facts about Nitric Oxide you should know

After outlining some of its main advantages, let’s look at some facts about NO:

  • One nitrogen atom and one oxygen atom make up the basic chemical known as nitric oxide (NO).
  • Joseph Priestley made the initial discovery of it in 1772, but it wasn’t until the late 20th century that its biological significance was realized.
  • NO was recognized as the “Molecule of the Year” in 1992 by the science magazine, underscoring its importance in biological processes [6]. 
  • Due to its unpaired electron, NO is a free radical that is extremely reactive and transient in the body.
  • Numerous cells, including endothelial cells, neurons, and immune cells, produce it endogenously in the body.
  • Numerous physiological processes, including vasodilation, neurotransmission, immune response, and cell communication, depend on nitric oxide, which functions as a signaling molecule.
  • It is a powerful vasodilator, allowing blood vessels to relax and open wider, increasing blood flow and lowering blood pressure.
  • By regulating blood flow, preventing blood clot formation, and maintaining the health and function of blood vessel walls, NO plays a critical role in preserving cardiovascular health.
  • NO operates as a neurotransmitter in the nervous system and is connected to learning, memory, and other cognitive processes.
  • A balanced diet full of nitrate-containing foods (such as beets, spinach and arugula), regular exercise and supplements containing L-arginine or L-citrulline can all help the body produce more nitric oxide.

Should you take Nitric Oxide supplements?

Depending on your specific health objectives, requirements, and circumstances, you may or may not choose to use NO supplements.

Taking these supplements, like those made with L-arginine or L-citrulline, may improve your blood flow, improve exercise performance, hasten recovery and support cardiovascular health, among other of its advantages.

However, take into these factors before using NO supplements:

  1. Health status: If you have pre-existing medical issues or are using drugs that may interfere with NO supplements, talk to a healthcare expert to find out if they are right for you.
  2. Diet: NO levels in the body can naturally be raised by consuming a well-balanced diet full of nitrate-containing foods (such as beets, spinach and arugula). Before using supplements, analyze your existing diet and think about adding nitrate-rich foods.
  3. Exercise: Regular exercise, particularly cardiovascular exercise, can assist to enhance the synthesis of nitric oxide. Make sure you have a well-rounded fitness program that includes flexibility, strength and cardiovascular conditioning.
  4. Individual necessities: Consider if NO supplements can be helpful for you by considering your unique health and fitness objectives, such as enhancing exercise performance, recuperation or cardiovascular health.
  5. Safety and side effects: NO supplements are typically regarded as safe for healthy adults, although they can have adverse effects including low blood pressure, headaches and gastrointestinal discomfort in certain people. Consider possible side effects and stop using immediately if you feel any negative consequences.

Other uses of Nitric Oxide

Here are some of the primary uses and functions of nitric oxide:

Vasodilation

Nitric oxide is a powerful vasodilator, which means that it aids in relaxing and enlarging blood vessels. This process is essential for preserving normal blood flow, controlling blood pressure and making sure that tissues receive enough oxygen and nutrients.

Medical applications

NO has been employed in a number of medical procedures, including the treatment of babies with chronic pulmonary hypertension using inhaled NO and the evaluation of endothelial function in patients with cardiovascular disease as a diagnostic tool [7].

Research

NO research is now being conducted in a variety of areas, including the creation of medications that release nitric oxide in a targeted manner to treat particular diseases and the investigation of its potential effects on ailments including cancer, neurological disorders and other illnesses.

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Examples of Nitric Oxide supplements

Ingredients that encourage NO generation in the body are frequently found in NO supplements. The following are the main components of these supplements:

1. L-arginine

This is a semi-essential amino acid, which means that even though the body can make it, there may occasionally be a need for supplementation, particularly during stressful or unwell periods. L-arginine is a precursor of NO, which is essential for cardiovascular health and other activities and it is an essential component of many physiological processes.

L-arginine improves cardiovascular health by encouraging vasodilation, reducing blood clot formation and preserving the health and function of blood vessel walls because it plays a part in the synthesis of nitric oxide.

By boosting blood flow, enhancing oxygen and nutrient delivery to muscles and reducing muscle fatigue, L-arginine can also enhance exercise performance.

2. L-citrulline

A non-essential amino acid, L-citrulline is needed for the creation of nitric oxide, a molecule that aids in controlling blood flow and serves a number of other physiological purposes.

Although the body is capable of producing L-citrulline, there are some circumstances where supplementation may be advantageous, such as improving exercise performance or promoting cardiovascular health.

NO is produced in part because of L-citrulline. L-citrulline is consumed and transformed into L-arginine by the kidneys, which is subsequently utilized to make nitric oxide.

Strong vasodilators, such as NO, assist to relax and expand blood vessels and increase blood flow. According to certain research, L-citrulline may improve erectile function by boosting the synthesis of nitric oxide and improving blood flow to the penile tissue.

3. Beetroot powder

A natural supplement called beetroot powder is made from dried and crushed beets, which are an abundant source of dietary nitrates.

These nitrates may be transformed by the body into nitric oxide, which has a number of health advantages.

Beetroot powder can be purchased as a standalone powder to be combined with water, juice or added to smoothies. It is also available as capsules and tablets.

Beetroot powder contains dietary nitrates that can be converted to NO, a strong vasodilator [8]. This aids in blood vessel relaxation and dilation, boosting blood flow and controlling blood pressure. 

4. Nitrate-rich supplements

Supplements high in nitrates are designed to offer a concentrated amount of dietary nitrates, which the body may use to create nitric oxide.  Supplements high in nitrate are often made from plant-based sources with high levels of nitrate in them. 

Some supplements contain extracts from nitrate-rich foods like spinach, arugula, or celery, which can raise the body’s NO levels by converting dietary nitrates to nitrites, which are then converted to nitric oxide. 

5. Pycnogenol

The bark of the Pinus pinaster, a French maritime pine tree, is the source of the trademarked and standardized extract known as pycnogenol.

Procyanidins, bioflavonoids and phenolic acids, which are potent antioxidants and offer a number of health advantages, are abundant in it.

By encouraging vasodilation, lowering the risk of blood clot formation and maintaining the health and functionality of blood vessel walls, pycnogenol has been shown to enhance blood circulation and support heart health.

Additionally, it can lower high blood pressure and enhance lipid profiles in the blood.

6. Combination formulas

NO supplement combination solutions are made to include a variety of components that help with nitric oxide production and general health.

These solutions frequently incorporate different minerals, extracts and amino acids that are known to encourage the production of nitric oxide and provide other health advantages.

What do top nitric oxide supplements contain?

In varying combinations, a number of different substances can be found in nitric oxide supplements, including:

  • Arginine: Despite being a frequent component of supplements, arginine is frequently broken down before entering the bloodstream, preventing it from having the opportunity to produce NO. 
  • Citrulline: This amino acid is used as a component in supplements because it eventually turns into nitric acid in blood vessels. 
  • Nitrates: These organic compounds can be found in foods that contain nitrates, such as beetroot extract. They are a part of the supplements since it is believed that they increase muscular power.
  • Antioxidants: Nitric oxide may be made more accessible in the body by vitamin C, flavonoids and other polyphenols (chemicals found in plants) [9]. But more research on actual application is required. 

Are nitric oxide supplements effective?

For some people, NO supplements can be useful, especially when they’re used to support certain health objectives, including boosting blood flow, supporting cardiovascular health or improving exercise performance.

The quality of the supplement, the contents and the user’s particular physiology and state of health all have a significant role in how well nitric oxide supplements work.

Research has demonstrated that a number of components in NO supplements, including L-arginine, L-citrulline and beetroot extract, can boost nitric oxide synthesis and have positive health effects [10].

These advantages can include increased blood flow, enhanced exercise capacity, lowered blood pressure and quicker recovery.

However, it is important to note that not all people will experience the same benefits or to the same extent.

Nitric oxide supplements can be effective for some people, particularly when used to support specific healing. Age, general health, genetic predispositions and lifestyle choices are just a few variables that might affect how well NO supplements work.

It is crucial to speak with a healthcare practitioner before contemplating nitric oxide supplementation to ascertain whether it is suitable and safe for your unique needs.

It’s also essential to pick items of the highest caliber from reliable suppliers and to adhere to the dose recommendations and directions given by the supplier of the supplement or your healthcare physician.

Overall, nitric oxide supplements can be helpful for certain people when taken in conjunction with a whole health plan, which may include a balanced diet, consistent exercise and the right lifestyle changes.

Recommended daily dosage of nitric oxide

Recommended daily dosage of nitric oxide

Depending on the individual supplement and its contents, different NO supplements have different daily dose recommendations.

To guarantee safety and efficacy, it’s crucial to adhere to the suggested doses given by the supplement manufacturer or your doctor.

The following are some typical doses for particular components present in nitric oxide supplements:

L-arginine

The amount of L-arginine that is advised for consumption each day in NO supplements varies based on the particular supplement and the intended outcome. However, common dosages, spread out over several doses, range from 3 to 6 grams per day.

It is crucial to be aware that taking large amounts of L-arginine may have unpleasant effects on the digestive system, including nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. As a result, it is advised to begin with a lesser dosage and gradually raise it as tolerated.

L-citrulline

The amount of L-citrulline that should be taken every day in nitric oxide supplements varies based on the particular supplement and the intended effect. However, common dosages, spread out over several doses, range from 1.5 to 6 grams per day.

It’s essential to remember that although L-citrulline may take longer than L-arginine to reach peak levels in the body, it may have longer-lasting benefits. As a result, it could be favored to L-arginine by some people.

Beetroot extract or powder

The amount of beetroot extract or powder that is advised for daily use in NO supplements might change based on the particular supplement and the intended effect. However, depending on the product, typical dosages range from 200 to 500 milligrams daily.

Nitric oxide production may be significantly affected by beetroot extract or powder, and some people may develop gastrointestinal side effects such bloating, diarrhea, and stomach pain.

Pycnogenol

The amount of Pycnogenol that is advised for daily use in NO supplements might change based on the particular supplement and the intended effect. However, depending on the product, usual dosages range from 100 to 200 milligrams daily.

Nitric oxide production may be significantly affected by pycnogenol, and some people may develop moderate gastrointestinal side effects as nausea or stomach pain.

Risks factors you need to take note of Nitric Oxide

While most people generally consider nitric oxide supplements to be safe when taken in the recommended dosages, there are some risk factors to be aware of:

  1. Interaction with medication: Nitric oxide supplements may interfere with several medicines, including nitrates used to treat angina, erectile dysfunction treatments, and blood pressure medications. If you are on any drugs, it is crucial to see a healthcare provider before using nitric oxide supplements.
  2. Gastrointestinal side effects: Some people who take nitric oxide supplements may develop moderate gastrointestinal side effects such nausea, bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
  3. Responses with allergens: L-arginine and beetroot extract, two components in nitric oxide supplements, may cause allergic responses in certain persons. The symptoms of an allergic response might include hives, itching, swelling, and breathing problems.
  4. Interactions with health conditions: Nitric oxide supplements may interfere with certain medical problems, including diabetes, herpes, renal or liver illness, and diabetes. If you have any medical concerns, it’s crucial to see a doctor before using nitric oxide supplements.
  5. Safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding: It is not widely known if nitric oxide supplements are safe to take when pregnant or nursing. Nitric oxide supplements should not be taken when expecting or nursing unless specifically advised to do so by a medical practitioner.

Before beginning any supplement program, it is crucial to speak with a healthcare provider, especially if you have any underlying health concerns or are taking any drugs.

Always abide by the dose recommendations and directions given by the supplement’s manufacturer or your doctor.

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[1] https://dermnetnz.org/topics/nitric-oxide
[2] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326381#benefits
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9710401/
[4] https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19717792/nitric-oxide-supplements/
[5] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/23207-vasodilators
[6] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006295220301593
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2844851/
[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7600128/
[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6165118/
[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9710401/

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