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Interview with Nitric Oxide Researcher Daniel Kim-Shapiro

I recently asked researcher Daniel Kim-Shapiro a series of burning questions that I have had about nitric oxide, nitrite conversion and nitrosamines.  To my great delight he not only answered my questions but even responded with the following:

“I feel part of my job as a scientist is to communicate with people – so no problem with the questions.”

I can almost guarantee you that he is working 70+ hours a week, so it’s much appreciated.  Notice below that he even discusses a potential nitric oxide boosting technique that is in the works:

Q. Hello. I run a large men’s health web site and have a quick question for you if you have time. I just read a summary of your research as to how deoxygenated hemoglobin is the prime mover in converting nitrite to nitric oxide in the arteries. I have a bunch of men, including myself, consuming high nitrate foods to do just that and it works pretty well. In my case, I have to consume a lot of high nitrate foods to get an effect and I was wondering if you had any info as to why some men might have an impaired conversion process? I’m eating a half bag of arugula and probably a quarter bag of spinach (from Trader Joe’s), which seems like a lot to me! Any tips as to how to get more nitrate to nitrite to NO conversion?

A. We don’t have all the answers for this. You might consider beet juice due to its high nitrate content. I would also suggest taking it on an empty stomach but with vitamin c. This will vary among individuals some I imagine – part of it may depend on the types of bacteria in your mouth that reduce nitrate to nitrite.

Q. Thanks for the response. I love beets, but they do a number on my GI tract. But I’ll try it. I know that Vitamin C + garlic really boosted NO, but can I ask why the Vitamin C + beetroot juice? I assume on an empty stomach to avoid the increased iron absorption?

A. We think (and are actually currently testing) to see if vitmain C increases plasma nitrite in the blood when you take oral nitrate. Also, vitamin c decreases nitrosamine formation in the gut.

Q. I have another question if you don’t mind. And, if these is too many, I totally understand. But there was a study that showed that pomegranate induced Parkinson’s like symptoms in a mouse model. In your opinion, can you “overboost” NO. I assume there is some possibility you can overactivate nNOS? But that wouldn’t apply to high nitrate foods, right? Hope you don’t mind me asking, but I’m always trying to keep my readers as safe as possible.

A. Too much NO would lower your blood pressure below an acceptable value or give you a headache. Make sure those are not happening. One study by Andy Jones showed after you take a certain amount of dietary nitrate, there is no added physical benfit of taking more. About 500 mg nitrate should be enough according to that study.

Q. One last question that has really bothered me: I know that Vitamin C is known for nitrosamine formation. In fact, I believe it is added to foods for that reason, although you can correct me if I am wrong. Anyway, there is a study out there that has concerned me (Gut, 2007; 56:1678-1684, Published Online First: 4 September 2007, “Fat transforms ascorbic acid from inhibiting to promoting acid-catalysed N-nitrosation”) This study, if I understand it right, says that Vitamin C actually promotes nitroamines if you eat a substantial amount of fat in your meal. Now I eat low fat pretty much, but most of the guys on my site do not and so I am concerned about this for their sakes. Do you have any commentary on this issue by any chance?

A. I had not seen that paper and agree with your interpretation. I think vitamin C is generally protective but not consuming high fat is a good idea anyway.

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