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Nitric Oxide Health Benefits

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You have probably learned the term “nitric oxide”, or NO, in one of your chemistry or science classes. Nitric oxide exists as a colorless gas that your body produces naturally.

Nitric Oxide Health Benefits

Nitric oxide may seem like an insignificant molecule, but it has quite the opposite importance for your body's health. In 1998, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three pharmacologists, who discovered that nitric oxide is a crucial signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system. They concluded that it plays a mega-role in preserving the function of your heart, brain, and other vital organs. 

Their discovery has paved the way for more research on the nitric oxide health effects and how it can be utilized in medical treatment [1].


What Is The Role Of Nitric Oxide In The Body?

Nitric oxide is a key signaling molecule produced by virtually every cell and organ in your body. It is synthesized at numerous locations in your body and has an established role in maintaining the proper functioning of physiological systems in your body [2, 3].

Within the cardiovascular system, nitrous oxide can induce vasodilation, which is the widening of your blood vessels. It also regulates apoptosis (programmed cell death), inhibits platelet aggregation in the pulmonary vasculature, prevents the adhesion of neutrophils and platelets onto your endothelial cells, and preserves the function of the endothelial cell barrier [3, 4].

nitric oxide health benefits

Hence, nitric oxide can modulate vascular tone and control your blood pressure while acting as a naturally occurring antithrombotic agent to prevent blood clots and thrombosis [4].

The effects of nitric oxide in your body don't stop there. Nitric oxide also plays a part in the metabolism and contractility of skeletal and cardiac muscles and insulin delivery. Unsurprisingly, insulin resistance is tightly associated with reduced nitric oxide bioavailability. [5, 6] Besides that, nitric oxide also contributes to the functioning of your immune system. As a defense response towards invading pathogenic microbes, macrophages generate nitric oxide, an antimicrobial agent [3].

In terms of brain function, nitric oxide is perceived as a double-edged sword. In amounts that do not surpass the normal threshold, this molecule mediates and preserves neuronal activity in your brain. On the other hand, if the amount of nitric oxide is unregulated and surges above the normal threshold, this can lead to detrimental neurotoxic effects [7].


What Are The Benefits Of Taking Nitric Oxide Supplements?

These supplements do not directly contain nitric oxide but instead consist of compounds such as L-arginine and L-citrulline that can be utilized by cells in your body to produce nitric oxide. 

The chief component in most supplements is l-arginine, present in various forms and usually at a dosage of 3mg per serving [8].

1. Treating Hypertension

Because of its vasodilative effects, researchers have linked hypertension to impaired nitric oxide bioavailability [9]. In a clinical study, researchers discovered that administering a single dose of oral active nitric oxide supplements can lower blood pressure acutely and reinstate the endothelial function of patients diagnosed with hypertension. However, the study did not cover the long-term benefits of nitric oxide supplementation on blood pressure [10]. 

2. Help Erectile Dysfunction

There is a proposed benefit of nitric oxide in helping to treat erectile dysfunction (ED). Several studies have concluded that combining l-arginine and pycnogenol (French maritime pine bark extract) in supplements may successfully improve sexual function in men with acute ED [11, 12].

3. Boosting Physical Performance

Another widely-advertised benefit of these supplements is boosting and enhancing sports performance, which is why they have become popular among athletes. Because nitric oxide can widen blood vessels, supplements containing nitrate and L-citrulline are thought to enhance the supply of nutrients and oxygen to muscles and improve their performance. As suggested by several studies, the effects of nitrate and L-citrulline on exercise performance seem promising. Nevertheless, more research is needed to investigate the optimal dosing regimens and which populations are likely to achieve maximum benefit from these supplements [13, 14].

4. Improve Insulin Sensitivity

Lastly, researchers have also investigated the benefits of nitric oxide supplements in Type 2 diabetic patients. A handful of studies have suggested that supplements containing L-arginine can increase nitric acid production and improve insulin sensitivity in Type 2 diabetes patients. However, these effects are not significant enough to completely reverse and return the insulin sensitivity to normal in Type 2 diabetics. Hence, these supplements may be potentially applicable as adjunctive therapy but cannot be recommended as the primary treatment for Type 2 diabetes as of yet [15, 16].


What Are The Risks Of Taking Nitric Oxide Supplements?

Side effects from these supplements are more common when they are taken in large amounts. A dose of arginine above 10g may lead to gastrointestinal distress such as diarrhea or stomach upset [17].

To ensure that these supplements are safe for you, consult a healthcare professional before commencing on them. This is especially important if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have any special medical conditions. Other than that, there is also a possibility of interactions between these supplements and your current medications.

nitric oxide health benefits

Nitric Oxide Health Benefits: Summing Up

Nitric oxide (NO) plays an essential role in your cardiovascular system, widening your blood vessels, regulating vascular tone, and controlling blood pressure. Large research body managed to summarize nitric oxide health effects on human. 

Nitric oxide (NO) supplements mainly consist of L-arginine and L-citrulline compounds, which may recover sexual function in men, lower blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity and muscle performance. However, the research surrounding these benefits is not highly conclusive, so these supplements are not fit to treat or cure medical conditions such as diabetes exclusively.

References:

[1] https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/1998/press-release/
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2953417/
[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9622410/
[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10404776/
[5] https://www.karger.com/Article/Fulltext/338150
[6] https://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/62/12/4030
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610750/
[8] https://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/fulltext/2010/04000/nitric_oxide_supplements_for_sports.1.aspx
[9] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17170603/
[10] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24962851/
[11] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26428638/
[12] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12851125/
[13] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27749691/
[14] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27600147/
[15] https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/24/5/875.long
[16] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22553931/
[17] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15809017/

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