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Nitrates in food and medicine: What’s the story?
- By Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
Deli meats, leafy greens, and certain heart drugs all contain nitrates in various forms. How do these compounds affect your heart?
Composed of just nitrogen and oxygen, nitrates are simple compounds that occur naturally in our bodies (see "Getting to know NO"). Nitrates are also found in both healthy and unhealthy foods — and in medications used to treat the squeezing chest discomfort known as angina. Here’s what you need to know about how nitrates and related chemicals affect your cardiovascular system.
As medications, nitrates widen blood vessels throughout the body; this helps prevent and treat bouts of angina (see "Nitrates as medicines"). But what about the synthetic nitrates added to processed meat and those that occur naturally in vegetables?
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About the Author
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
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No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
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