Dietary intake of inorganic nitrate in vegetarians and omnivores and its impact on blood pressure, resting metabolic rate and the oral microbiome.


Institute of Health & Community, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, UK. Electronic address: [Email]


Vegetarian diets are commonly associated with lower blood pressure levels. This has been related to greater consumption of inorganic nitrate, since vegetables are the main source of this anion. Dietary nitrate is reduced to nitrite by commensal bacteria in the mouth, which in turn leads to increased circulatory nitrite availability. Nitrite can form nitric oxide by several pathways promoting a reduction in the vascular tone and lower blood pressure. This study tested whether vegetarians have higher concentrations of nitrite in saliva and plasma, and lower blood pressure and resting metabolic rate (RMR), due to higher intakes of nitrate, compared to omnivores. Following a non-randomized, cross-over and single-blinded design we measured dietary nitrate intake, blood pressure and RMR in young and healthy vegetarians (n = 22) and omnivores (n = 19) with similar characteristics after using placebo or antibacterial mouthwash for a week to inhibit oral bacteria. Additionally, we analyzed salivary and plasma nitrate and nitrite concentrations, as well as the oral nitrate-reduction rate and oral microbiome in both groups. Dietary nitrate intake in vegetarians (97 ± 79 mg/day) was not statistically different (P > 0.05) to omnivores (78 ± 47 mg/day). Salivary and plasma nitrate and nitrite concentrations were similar after placebo mouthwash in both groups (P > 0.05). The oral nitrate-reducing capacity, abundance of oral bacterial species, blood pressure and RMR were also similar between vegetarians and omnivores (P > 0.05). Antibacterial mouthwash significantly decreased abundance of oral nitrate-reducing bacterial species in vegetarians (_16.9%; P < 0.001) and omnivores (_17.4%; P < 0.001), which in turn led to a significant reduction of the oral nitrate-reducing capacity in vegetarians (-78%; P < 0.001) and omnivores (-85%; P < 0.001). However, this did not lead to a significant increase in blood pressure and RMR in either groups (P > 0.05). These findings suggest that vegetarian diets may not alter nitrate and nitrite homeostasis, or the oral microbiome, compared to an omnivore diet. Additionally, inhibition of oral nitrite synthesis for a week with antibacterial mouthwash did not cause a significant raise in blood pressure and RMR in healthy, young individuals independent of diet.