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Nitrate in Spinach May Help Improve Cell Function

A study published in an issue of Cell Metabolism revealed that researchers found that the consumption of spinach can increase the performance of the power house of the cells, the mitochondria.


A team of researchers observed how doses of inorganic nitrate can improve a person’s muscle performance. They gathered a group of healthy people and asked them to take in specific amounts of inorganic nitrate.  This lasted for a period of three days and researchers then observed how their oxygen consumption responded to the change in diet. The results of the study were published in the science journal Cell Metabolism. But despite the promising results, the researchers said that they are not recommending the intake of inorganic nitrate food supplements basing on the results of their study alone. They added that they are recommending the consumption of natural sources like green vegetables and fruits to obtain the health benefit of nitrate.

Head researcher from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, Eddie Weitzberg, said that the dosage of nitrate which they used in the study is equivalent to that contained in a small spinach plate and three red beets. He added that the consumption of more vegetables and fruits can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. But it is unclear which nutrients in these natural food sources are responsible for producing the effects. The researchers are looking at inorganic nitrate as one of the strongest candidate.

Nitrate: Under the Magnifying Glass

The nutritional value of nitrate is not well established compared to other well-studied nutrients. Other people are considering nitrate as a toxic substance that may produce adverse effects to the body in high amounts. But the researchers found that nitrate can be beneficial to the body by acting as a co-producer of nitric oxide assisted by good bacteria present in the mouth. Nitric oxide had been found by decades of scientific research to be beneficial in opening up the blood vessels, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The Swedish researchers found another health advantage of nitrate and its resulting nitric oxide. The mitochondria is responsible for providing power to the cells. But levels of protein decreases in the process of increasing its efficiency which in turn makes the mitochondria become leaky. Weitzberg said that the mitochondria is not fully efficient in normal circumstances and added that no machine is.

The study showed that the increase intake of nitrate through diet can have an immediate effect to the body by increasing the efficiency of the mitochondria. But researchers are still finding a way to determine the long term effects of eating inorganic nitrate to people. Weitzberg said that their next study will focus on observing the effects of inorganic nitrate to people with health conditions concerning the mitochondria like mitochondrial dysfunction, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The researchers concluded that other studies had been consistent in saying that eating fruits and vegetables can have positive effects to the body like the prevention of certain diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. But despite this, they added that the mechanisms responsible for producing these effects are still not for certain. Weitzberg also said that certain organisms in the mouth need to be present in order to fully take advantage of the health benefits of nitrate; the use of strong mouthwashes can kill these microorganisms and may prevent the production of the nitric oxide in the body.

Health Benefits of Eating Spinach

Spinach is an epic vegetable with tons of health benefits but which is dreaded by most kids. It has more nutrients than any other vegetable and is very available throughout the year; but it has the best flavor during its season which runs from September to October. The vegetable belongs to the family of beets and Swiss chard and has a similar taste with the other vegetables in its group. Spinach has a distinctive mild and sweet taste which makes it perfect for making salads, but the taste becomes more robust and acidic once cooked. The three types of Spinach available in the market are baby spinach ideal for salads, smooth-leaf and savoy.

The Anti-Cancer and Anti-Inflammatory Health Benefits of Spinach

Studies had found that spinach has more flavonoid content than other vegetables. Researchers had identified more than a dozen favonoids in spinach which are effective in reducing cellular inflammation and the risk of developing certain types of cancer. The evidences indicating that the potential antioxidant value of spinach is strong enough for research to extract these compounds for controlled laboratory studies. And they found that the compounds are effective in reducing the cell division rate of human stomach cancer cells.

Studies using laboratory animals also showed that the extracts can inhibit the growth of skin pappilomas or skin cancer cells. In addition, a related study found that women with higher intake of spinach have lower risk and incidence of breast cancer than women who ate less of the jade green vegetable.

Spinach is also a good source of carotenoids and other antioxidants like vitamin E, beta-carotene, manganese, vitamin C and zinc that have been found to inhibit inflammation and reduce cancer risk. The peptides in spinach can also lower blood pressure and help in treating and lowering the risk of certain diseases like atherosclerosis and other blood-vessel related problems.

Two other important and powerful antioxidants can also be found in spinach. These are zeaxanthin and lutein which can naturally be found in certain areas of the eye like the macula and retina. Though there hasn’t been any large scale study which investigated the effects of lutein and zeaxanthin in preventing eye problems like macular degeneration, studies have found that the consumption of spinach can increase the concentration of lutein in the blood.

Spinach for Bone Health

A cup of boiled spinach contains around 100 percent more of the body’s daily requirement of vitamin K; this nutrient is essential in preventing the excessive activation of osteoclasts which are responsible for breaking down the bones. In addition to this, vitamin K reacts with certain microorganisms in the stomach to produce vitamin K2 which is an important component in the production of more osteocalcin in the bones. Osteocalcin helps in storing more calcium in the bones to make it stronger. There’s a reason why Popeye always had a can of spinach with him.

Sources
eurekalert.org
whfoods.com
spinachwords.com
buzzle.com

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