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Consuming Inorganic Nitrate Improves Muscle Performance

February 2, 2011: 10:51 AM EST

Inorganic nitrates—found in many fruits and vegetables (leafy greens in particular)—were long thought to be nutritionally useless, and even toxic. However, scientists now recognize their role in regulating processes such as blood flow and blood pressure, and they have just discovered another: dietary nitrate increases muscle endurance. In a study involving healthy subjects, those who consumed a small amount of inorganic nitrate for three days used less oxygen while exercising than those who did not. Though the mechanism behind this is not clear, scientists believe that the nitrates enhance mitochondrial efficiency. Mitochondria—the cell’s engines—lose energy in the form of heat; nitrates stop this loss and make the cell, and thus the muscle, perform more efficiently.

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, February 02, 2011, © Elsevier Inc.
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