- Nitric oxide is a molecule that our body produces to help its 50 trillion cells communicate with each other by transmitting signals throughout the entire body.
Nitric oxide has been shown to be important in the following cellular activities:
- help memory and behavior by transmitting information between nerve cells in the brain
- assist the immune system at fighting off bacteria and defending against tumors
- regulate blood pressure by dilating arteries
- reduce inflammation
- improve sleep quality
- increase your recognition of sense (i.e. smell)
- increase endurance and strength
- assist in gastric motility
There have been over 60,000 studies done on nitric oxide in the last 20 years and in 1998, The Nobel Prize for Medicine was given to three scientists that discovered the signaling role of nitric oxide.
- Nitric oxide and heart disease: Nitric oxide has gotten the most attention due to its cardiovascular benefits. Alfred Nobel, the founder of the Nobel Prize, was prescribed nitroglycerin over 100 years ago by his doctor to help with his heart problems. He was skeptical, knowing nitroglycerin was used in dynamite, but this chemical helped with his heart condition. Little did he know nitroglycerin acts by releasing nitric oxide which relaxes narrowed blood vessels, increasing oxygen and blood flow. The interior surface (endothelium) of your arteries produce nitric oxide. When plaque builds up in your arteries, called atherosclerosis, you reduce your capacity to produce nitric oxide, which is why physicians prescribe nitroglycerin for heart and stroke patients.
- Nitric oxide and erectile dysfunction: Viagra and other impotence medications work due to their action on the nitric oxide pathway. One cause of impotence is unhealthy and aged arteries that feed blood to the sexual organs. Viagra works by influencing enzymes in the nitric oxide pathway, causing a cascade of enzymatic reactions that enhance nitric oxide, causing more blood flow and better erections.
Source: Clark, Jason, BSc, MSc, ; “What is nitric oxide and how does it work?”, www.nutritionexpress.com/showarticle.aspx?articleid=286