The Benefits of Nitric Oxide Enhancement

Nitric oxide is a compound that is produced in almost every type of cell in the human body. It is important for blood vessel health in that it causes them to widen, increasing blood flow and reducing blood pressure. It also stimulates the release of the human growth hormone, insulin and several other hormones. Over time, the body loses its ability to synthesize nitric oxide, and this is one of the ways in which people develop high blood pressure and other chronic health problems. It becomes necessary to take supplements that help with the synthesis of nitric oxide in the body.

Health benefits of nitric oxide enhancement

Supplements that increase nitric oxide production in the body are some of the most popular supplements these days. That is because there is scientific evidence that the resulting increased blood flow in the body has several health benefits. The most popular nitric oxide supplements are L-citrulline and L-arginine. L-citrulline is an amino acid naturally found in nuts, meat, legumes and watermelon while L-arginine is an amino acid naturally found in dairy products, fish, red meat and poultry. Both are also synthesized in the laboratory in the form of a powder, pill or cream. Here are the benefits of enhancing nitric oxide.

Reduces blood pressure

Medical scientists have found that people with high blood pressure have an impaired ability to use nitric oxide in the body. They have also found that people who consume nitrates through food convert the nitrates into nitric oxide. The nitric oxide causes blood vessels to relax and dilate and in the process blood pressure goes down.

People who don’t eat the right foods can benefit from taking nitrate supplements which have been to significantly reduce their blood pressure. Pregnant women with high blood pressure can also benefit from enhancing their nitric oxide by taking supplements. In a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2005, pregnant women who took L-arginine supplements for a long time had lower blood pressure readings than women who did not take the supplement.

Improves heart health

By reducing blood pressure as discussed above, reducing arterial stiffness and improving carotid artery blood flow, nitric oxide supplements significantly improve heart health.

Improves erectile function

Nitric oxide relaxes the muscles in the penis, enabling the chambers inside the organ to fill with blood, resulting in an effective erection. L-citrulline is particularly used for that purpose and has been found to be safe. One study found it to improve erection hardness in 12 men with mild erectile dysfunction though it was less effective than prescription drugs like Viagra. Incidentally, Viagra uses the nitric oxide pathways to help men with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction.

L-arginine (an amino acid) and Pycnogenol (a plant extract from the pine tree) are other nitric oxide boosting supplements. A number of studies found a combination of these two to significantly improve sexual function in men with erectile dysfunction.

Decreases muscle soreness after strenuous exercise

Most people experience muscle soreness after strenuous or unaccustomed exercise. This generally occurs 24-72 hours after exercise, which is why it is called delayed-onset muscle soreness. Luckily, citrulline malate, a form of L-citrulline, increases nitric oxide production and also decreases muscles soreness. In one study, 41 people received either citrulline malate or placebo an hour before exercising as long as possible on a flat barbell press. The group that received citrulline malate experienced 40% less muscle soreness compared to placebo, 24 and 48 hours after the exercise.

Scientists believe that the nitric oxide produced by taking citrulline malate increase blood flow to active muscles, and the supplement itself increases nutrient delivery and clears waste products related to muscle fatigue.

Boosts exercise performance

Nitric oxide supplements are very popular among athletes and recreational gym users because they increase exercise performance. How? The supplements contain nitrates, L-arginine and L-citrulline and other ingredients that increase nitric oxide production in the body. The nitric oxide widens blood vessels and performs many other cell processes. Wider blood vessels increase the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the muscles during exercise, helping to improve performance.

In many studies, nitrates have been proven to improve exercise performance in swimmers, runners, cyclists and kayakers. L-citrulline is also effective in improving exercise performance. However, L-arginine was not found to effectively improve exercise performance maybe because, when ingested, it is metabolized before it gets into the bloodstream.

Type 2 diabetes treatment and prevention

Nitric oxide increases insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes. Nitric oxide production is diminished in people with type 2 diabetes. Therefore, taking nitric oxide supplements has potential to treat or prevent type 2 diabetes. In one study, L-arginine increased nitric oxide production and increased insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes. Another study tried to determine if L-arginine could prevent or delay the progression of type 2 diabetes. Though it did not prevent development of the disease, it increased insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.

Other reported benefits

Many people who take nitric oxide supplements have reported several benefits, many of which don’t have scientific evidence to support them. These include:

  • Improving recovery after major trauma or injury.
  • Healing diabetic foot ulcers.
  • Preventing the common cold.
  • Enhancing weight loss.
  • Improving lung function in people with cystic fibrosis.
  • Treating altitude sickness.
  • Reducing the side effects of memory loss.

Safety

Nitric oxide supplements have been found to be safe if taken in the right amounts. However, beetroot juice supplements commonly turn the urine and stool a dark red color which is quite harmless. L-arginine has been found to cause stomach discomfort and diarrhea in doses above 10 grams.

It’s wise to enhance nitric oxide in the body

Considering the many health benefits of nitric oxide in the body, it is wise to enhance its production in the body naturally by eating fruits and vegetables. Then take supplements that contain nitrate or the amino acids L-citrulline and L-arginine to make sure you are taking enough. Just stay within the recommended dosage.

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Author

Ron Goedeke MD, BSc Hons MBChB, FNZCAM

Dr Ron Goedeke, specialises in alternative and functional medicine. He is a foundation member of the New Zealand college of Appearance medicine and has been a member of the American Academy of Anti-aging medicine since 1999. With over 20 years of experience in the anti-aging field, Dr Ron Goedeke is recognized as one of New Zealand’s leaders in this new and growing field of medicine.

Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns about your health. Never disregard or delay seeking medical advice because of something you have heard or read on this website.

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