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Nitrates in vegetables protect against gastric ulcers
Date:5/7/2008

Fruits and vegetables that are rich in nitrates protect the stomach from damage. This takes place through conversion of nitrates into nitrites by the bacteria in the oral cavity and subsequent transformation into biologically active nitric oxide in the stomach. The Swedish researcher Joel Petersson has described the process, which also means that antibacterial mouthwashes can be harmful for the stomach.

"Nitrates in food have long been erroneously linked to an increased risk of cancer," says Joel Petersson of Uppsala University's Department of Medical Cell Biology.

He instead thinks that nitrate-rich vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, radishes and beetroot have a positive affect on the stomach by activating the mucous membranes' own protective mechanisms, thus reducing the risk of problems such as gastric ulcers.

In the body the blood circulation transports nitrates to the salivary glands, where they are concentrated. When we have eaten nitrate-rich food our saliva thus contains large amounts of nitrates, which the bacteria of the oral cavity partially convert into nitrites. When we swallow the nitrites they come into contact with acid gastric juice, and are then converted into the biologically active substance nitric oxide. This results in our developing high levels of nitric oxide in the stomach after eating vegetables.

It has long been known that nitric oxide is produced by various enzymes in the human body, but the fact that nitric oxide can also be formed in the stomach from nitrites in the saliva, entirely without the involvement of enzymes, is a relatively new discovery. Researchers still have very little idea of how the stomach is affected by these high levels of nitric oxide. Joel Petersson's thesis shows that the nitric oxide that is formed in the stomach stimulates the protective mechanisms of the mucous membrane because the stomach constantly has to protect itself so as not to be broken down together with th
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Contact: Joel Petersson
Joel.Petersson@mcb.uu.se
46-070-418-5375
Uppsala University
Source:Eurekalert

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