In 1998, the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology acknowledged the work of Furchgott, Murad and Ignarro characterizing this simple molecule containing 1 oxygen atom and 1 nitrogen atom. (1) This molecule appears everywhere in the plant and animal kingdoms. Called a neurotransmitter, the activity of NO is diverse and complicated.
The discovery of NO relied on its activity in the cells lining the blood vessels. NO relaxed the blood vessels. NO deficiency could account for elevated blood pressure and supporting NO production can decrease blood pressure. Recall that the drug nitroglycerin was used to treat angina (a constricting pain in the heart area.) Research revealed that nitroglycerin increased NO and thus served to relax the blood vessels serving the heart and relieved the pain. With increased blood flow, oxygen delivery to tissues improved. (2)
A key component of healthy sexual function depends on the relaxation of blood vessels. Drugs developed to improve erectile function rely on the increased activity of NO. (3) This relaxation of blood vessels is critical to both male and female orgasm. NO impacts the endocrine system in significant ways. Beth Shirley documents the relationship of hormones and NO. (4)
NO activity is critical to the function of immune system cells. In that capacity, NO improves the body’s ability to fight infections. (5)
There are many nutritional products which provide the starting materials for NO production. The amino acid arginine is a key starting material. The plant world provides a food based opportunity to increase NO. Beet root is a rich source.
Since 1998, the research on NO burgeoned. We now know that NO has impacts on blood pressure, heart function, inflammation, motility of the gut, the health of the neurons including seizure activity and even memory. NO is key to immune cell function. Best of all, we all can access natural means to increase NO.
Here is an interview at Take Charge of Your Health with Dr. Chris Meletis covering the fundamentals of NO.
This link is for access to a nutraceutical designed to improve NO production and simple testing for NO status.