NO is one of the simplest molecules in biology, comprised of just two atoms—one atom of nitrogen (N) and one of oxygen (O). Through NO’s structure is simple, nitric oxide is now regarded as the most significant molecule in the body, absolutely crucial to your well-being.
Nitric oxide is a powerful signaling molecule present in the cardiovascular and nervous systems as well as throughout the body. NO penetrates membranes and sends specific messages or biological signals that regulate cellular activity and instruct the body to perform certain functions. NO influences the functioning of virtually every bodily organ, including the lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach, genitals, and, of course, the heart.
Among the many vital duties NO performs is its role as a vasodilator, meaning that it helps control blood flow to every part of the body. NO relaxes and enlarges the blood vessels, ensuring that blood can efficiently nourish the heart. NO also works to prevent the formation of blood clots, which are the trigger for strokes and heart attacks, and it regulates blood pressure.
Another key role of NO is to slow the accumulation of atherosclerotic plaque in the blood vessels. You will recall that plaque is an artery-hardening buildup of cholesterol fats in the coronary arteries that can narrow or even block the arteries, thereby reducing the heart’s blood supply. My research strongly suggests that by capitalizing on its ability to combat atherosclerotic plaque, nitric oxide therapy can help lower cholesterol by synergistically facilitating the actions of commonly prescribed statin drugs like Lipitor and Mevacor. It stands to reason that NO therapy is not only safe when combined with statins, but also enhancing to the drugs’ effects, because one of the important mechanisms of these drugs is to increase and maintain NO production. NO therapy performs the same function, only naturally.
NO is used by the immune system to stave off infectious bacteria, viruses, and parasites, and it even curtails the proliferation of certain types of cancerous cells. In people with moderate to severe diabetes, nitric oxide can prevent many common but serious complications, particularly those associated with impaired blood flow. NO is also crucial to memory function, because the brain used it to store and retrieve long-term memories, as well as to transmit information. We are currently looking into the major role NO may play in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
As an anti-inflammatory, nitric oxide is being studied for its apparent role in reducing the swelling and discomfort of arthritis. NO can also guard against the development of stomach ulcers by maintaining normal blood flow to the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal system. As neurotransmitter, NO increases blood flow to the genitals, thus playing an important role in normal sexual functioning. My findings in the area led to the development of the prescription drug Viagra. NO is a powerful antioxidant, deactivating so-called oxygen “free radicals” in the body that can contribute to American’s four leading killers” cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
The single biggest NO producing nutrient is the amino acid l-Arginine. The Council for Responsible Nutrition has determined that the amino acid l-Arginine is safe in doses up to 20 grams/day. The April 2008 issue of Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology details this research.