While it has long been known that the reduction of nitrite to nitric oxide is involved in the process of meat curing and bad breath, a greater biological role for the nitrite anion has only recently been appreciated. Salivary nitrate is reduced to nitrite by oral bacteria. In the acidic environment of the stomach, nitrite is further reduced to nitric oxide, which has broad biological activity. In the January 2 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Jon Lundberg and colleagues from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden tested the effects of human saliva on the blood flow and thickness of rat mucosa. The saliva was collected from individuals following high or low nitrite diets. Rat mucosal blood flow and thickness were found to increase after application of nitrite-rich saliva, while fasting saliva had no effect. The results support a gastroprotective role of salivary nitrate/nitrite.
In an accompanying commentary, Mark Gladwin from the National Institutes of Health discusses the broad biology of the nitrite anion and its potential utility in the treatment of gastric ulcers, or conditions associated with scavenging of nitric oxide, such as sickle cell anemia. Gladwin suggests "At the very least, perhaps we should avoid mouthwash and feel less guilty about eating hot dogs at the ball park."
Source: Eurekalert & othersLast reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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