Nitric oxide (NO), a vital molecule produced in the human body, plays a pivotal role in regulating oxygen and nutrient delivery to every cell. Its significance extends beyond cellular communication and antimicrobial properties, as it acts as a safeguard against invading pathogens. Remarkably, NO was recognized as the esteemed “Molecule of the Year” by Science Magazine in 1992, with the three US scientists responsible for its discovery receiving the highly acclaimed Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1998.
The decline in nitric oxide production serves as the earliest indicator and catalyst for the progression of chronic diseases, including the leading cause of mortality across genders worldwide – cardiovascular disease. Nitric oxide is synthesized by two pathways. First, through the conversion of the amino acid L-arginine by a functional enzyme. Nevertheless, this pathway can become impaired due to various factors such as aging, oxidative stress, inadequate nutrition, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, diabetes, and high sugar intake, among others. The alternative pathway involves the utilization of nitrate and nitrite naturally present in select foods. Each pathway contributes around 50% to the overall NO production, compensating for the other. However, when the production of NO from both pathways becomes limited, the onset of health issues becomes inevitable.
This understanding highlights the compelling significance of nitric oxide and its multifaceted role in human physiology.