Every time you take a breath, you are increasing or decreasing your longevity1. Oxygen availability holds the key to regulating the body’s function and integrity1. A disruption in this normal physiological balance can lead to excess fatigue, age-related, long-term diseases and even death2
The respiratory cycle was described over a century ago. Ever since, this cycle has been referred to as a two-gas (oxygen and carbon dioxide) system3. Recently, only two decades ago in 1998, three scientists received a Nobel prize for their independent discoveries concerning "nitric oxide as a signalling molecule in the cardiovascular system4. This discovery was huge because scientists started seeing the respiratory cycle as a three-gas system that involves not just oxygen and carbon dioxide, but also a third gas called nitric oxide5.
Red blood cells uptake newly inhaled oxygen from the lungs, transport it to cells in the body and bring back carbon dioxide to be exhaled from the lungs5. In addition to this cycle, nitric oxide plays an important role in the regulation of blood flow by expanding and contracting the blood vessels, as well as the uptake and release of oxygen from red blood cells, providing more pump, energy and nutrient delivery to our bodies5,6.
In fact, these Nobel prize scientists suggested that blood flow to tissues is equally, if not more important, than how much oxygen is carried by red blood cells5,6. An imbalance in this three-gas system can result in a variety of health conditions such as heart diseases, poor circulation, fatigue, decreased immune function and mental health diseases4,7. Since then, nitric oxide has been seen as a life changer! This finding triggered the development of new therapies that have the potential to improve the well-being of millions of people7. However, in order to properly run this three-gas system, sufficient oxygen and nitric oxide must be supplied to the body.
Luckily, nitric oxide production can be improved with diet and exercise. Several foods, herbs and nutrients have been shown to increase nitric oxide production including the amino acids citrulline and arginine, as well as nitrate-rich foods such as beetroot, spinach and other leafy green vegetables, and medicinal plants like ginkgo biloba.
Daily intake of these super foods can help you prevent diseases, while increasing your energy, muscle pump and recovery, nutrient delivery, and blood flow.
- van Vliet, T., Casciaro, F. & Demaria, M. To breathe or not to breathe: Understanding how oxygen sensing contributes to age-related phenotypes. Ageing Research Reviews 67, 101267 (2021).
- Nicolson, G.L. Mitochondrial dysfunction and chronic disease: treatment with natural supplements. Alternative therapies in health and medicine 20 Suppl 1, 18-25 (2014).
- Haldane, J. The Relation of the Action of Carbonic Oxide to Oxygen Tension. The Journal of Physiology 18, 201-217 (1895).
- Mitka, M. 1998 NObel Prize winners are announced: three discoverers of nitric oxide activity. Jama 280, 1648 (1998).
- Premont, R.T., Reynolds, J.D., Zhang, R. & Stamler, J.S. Role of Nitric Oxide Carried by Hemoglobin in Cardiovascular Physiology: Developments on a Three-Gas Respiratory Cycle. Circ Res 126, 129-158 (2020).
- Paddock, C. Study shows blood cells need nitric oxide to deliver oxygen. (2015).
- Premont, R.T., Reynolds, J.D., Zhang, R. & Stamler, J.S. Role of Nitric Oxide Carried by Hemoglobin in Cardiovascular Physiology. Circulation Research 126, 129-158 (2020).