Your body relies on a number of signalling molecules, called chemical messengers, to allow for communication between cells. One such messenger is nitric oxide, a compound important for the function of many organ systems, including your nervous and cardiovascular systems. Some vitamins may promote nitric oxide synthesis.
One nutrient that can positively affect nitric oxide synthesis is vitamin C, or ascorbic acid. A study published in 2003 in "Circulation Research" found that vitamin C increased the activity of the enzyme nitric oxide synthase, the protein that produces nitric oxide. The vitamin may support nitric oxide production and help to maintain the levels of the compound within your body.
Vitamin D, a general term for a family of related hormones, can also aid in nitric oxide production. Cells within your brain have the ability to respond to circulating vitamin D in your bloodstream, and increase nitric oxide synthase activity upon exposure to the vitamin. Vitamin D may help boost nitric oxide production in your brain. Since nitric oxide plays an important role in brain function, consuming adequate vitamin D might support the health of your nervous system.
Sources of Vitamins C and D
You can promote proper nitric oxide production in your body by consuming enough vitamin C and D each day. Fruits and vegetables, such as red peppers, cantaloupe, mango, spinach and broccoli contain vitamin C, while dairy products and fortified cereals contain vitamin D. If you are deficient in vitamin D or C, which is determined by a blood test, you may need to take supplements.
B-Vitamins and Nitric Oxide Function
Other vitamins, such as the family of eight B vitamins, can help support nitric oxide function. Defects in nitric oxide signalling to the cells that line your blood vessels contributes to cardiovascular disease, and some vitamin treatments seek to help restore blood vessel lining function. A study published in 1999 in "Clinical Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology" found that B vitamins helped the cells that line your blood vessels respond to nitric oxide, helping to improve the cells' function. However, vitamin therapy cannot replace pharmacologic therapy in the treatment of cardiovascular disease. If you're interested in the benefits of vitamin therapy, talk to your doctor.
- Circulation Research: Long-Term Vitamin C Treatment Increases Vascular Tetrahydrobiopterin Levels and Nitric Oxide Synthase Activity
- Oregon State: Vitamin D and Mental Illness
- Clinical Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology: Effects of Chelation with EDTA and Vitamin B Therapy on Nitric Oxide-Related Endothelial Vasodilator Function