Research that was recently conducted at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden suggests that eating vitamin-rich vegetables like leafy greens and beets could improve efficiency of muscle function due to inorganic nitrates found in the foods.
Scientists studied participants who consumed small doses of inorganic nitrate for three days and then rode on exercise bikes. They found that the subjects' muscles consumed oxygen more efficiently, and concluded that it was due to improved mitochondria function.
The news does not suggest that people immediately reach for nitrate supplements, however. The substance needs bacteria found in the mouth to produce nitric oxide, a byproduct that has been known to dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure. So researchers recommend getting daily doses of inorganic nitrate from fresh vegetables.
"We're talking about an amount of nitrate equivalent to what is found in two or three red beets or a plate of spinach," said Eddie Weitzberg, study co-author.
Further, the authors noted that powerful mouthwashes could kill certain beneficial bacteria in the mouth and hinder the effectiveness of the nitrates.
Weitzberg said he and his team plan to test the effects of inorganic nitrates on individuals with mitochondrial dysfunction, like those with diabetes or cardiovascular disease.