"Nitrates in food have long been erroneously linked to an increased risk of cancer," says Joel Petersson of Uppsala University's Department of Medical Cell Biology.
He instead thinks that nitrate-rich vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, radishes and beetroot have a positive affect on the stomach by activating the mucous membranes' own protective mechanisms, thus reducing the risk of problems such as gastric ulcers.
In the body the blood circulation transports nitrates to the salivary glands, where they are concentrated. When we have eaten nitrate-rich food our saliva thus contains large amounts of nitrates, which the bacteria of the oral cavity partially convert into nitrites. When we swallow the nitrites they come into contact with acid gastric juice, and are then converted into the biologically active substance nitric oxide. This results in our developing high levels of nitric oxide in the stomach after eating vegetables.
It has long been known that nitric oxide is produced by various enzymes in the human body, but the fact that nitric oxide can also be formed in the stomach from nitrites in the saliva, entirely without the involvement of enzymes, is a relatively new discovery. Researchers still have very little idea of how the stomach is affected by these high levels of nitric oxide. Joel Petersson's thesis shows that the nitric oxide that is formed in the stomach stimulates the protective mechanisms of the mucous membrane – because the stomach constantly has to protect itself so as not to be broken down together with the food ingested. Two such important defence mechanisms are the stomach's constant renewal of the mucous layer that covers the mucous membrane and its maintenance of a stable blood flow in the mucous membrane. The nitric oxide widens the blood vessels in the mucous membrane, thus increasing the blood flow and regulating elimination of the important mucus. Together, these factors lead to a more resistant mucous membrane.
Using animal models Joel Petersson and his colleagues have shown that nitrate additives in food protect against both gastric ulcers and the minor damage that often occurs in the gastrointestinal tract as a result of ingestion of anti-inflammatory drugs.
"These sorts of drugs are very common in the event of pain and inflammation. They have the major disadvantage of causing a large number of serious side effects in the form of bleeding and ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract. With the aid of a nitrate-rich diet you can thus avoid such damage," he explains.
The thesis also shows that the bacteria in the oral cavity are very important to the process of nitrates in food protecting the stomach's mucous membrane. This has been examined in that rats have been given nitrate-rich feed, whereby some of them have also simultaneously received an antibacterial oral spray. When these rats were then given anti inflammatory drugs, damage to the mucous membrane only occurred in the ones that had received the oral spray. In the latter the nitrates no longer had a protective effect on the mucous membrane, as the oral spray had killed the important bacteria that normally convert nitrates into nitrites.
"This shows how important our oral flora is. The fact that these bacteria are not just involved in our oral hygiene but also play an important role in the normal functions of the gastrointestinal tract is not entirely new. It is currently an important issue, as antibacterial mouthwashes have become more and more common. If a mouthwash eliminates the bacterial flora in the mouth this may be important to the normal functioning of the stomach, as the protective levels of nitric oxide greatly decrease," says Joel Petersson.
In his opinion the research results also provide a new approach to the importance of fruit and vegetables in our diet.
"If we followed the National Swedish Food Administration's recommendation and ate 500 g of fruit and vegetables per person per day it would definitely be better for our stomachs.
Joel Petersson's thesis is being scrutinised at Uppsala University on 9 May.
Joel Petersson | alfa
3D images of cancer cells in the body: Medical physicists from Halle present new method
16.05.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Better equipped in the fight against lung cancer
16.05.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
22.05.2018 | Life Sciences
22.05.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.05.2018 | Trade Fair News