Animal Science Department



Date of this Version



Presented at Range Beef Cow Symposium XXII, November 29, 30, and December 1, 2011, Mitchell, Nebraska. Sponsored by Cooperative Extension Services and the Animal Science Departments of the University of Wyoming, Colorado State University, South Dakota State University, and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


Every single time I have Dr. Nathan Bryan on the radio he inspires me to write about the work he is doing. Bryan is one of only a couple dozen dietary nitrate researchers in the world and yet the work they do may be the most important in relation to understanding aging and improved human health. The really frustrating part regarding this information is that a few squeaky wheels attempt to create a negative image about nitrates in some meat products when, globally, consumers are actually nitrate deficient.

Dr. Nathan Bryan is a biochemist and researcher in Houston at the University of Texas at The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases. He tells me that by the time we are 40 years old our body only has half of the nitrous oxide production that it did when we were 20. So get ready for this ground breaking scientific breakthrough: Diet and exercise become even more important and lead to improved human health!

These researchers have actually developed a dietary nitrate food index. In other words, they established a list of the most important foods to consume in order that you may enhance nitric oxide production. At the top of the list are leafy green vegatables with kale being the absolute best single source.

Now while I celebrate healthy living in any way we can get it, I am going to be forced to air a bit of a frustation here. It is no secret that in the 70’s there was one flawed bit of scientific research that incorrectly labeled the nitrites used in meat processing as cancer-causing agents. Dr. Bryan and other nitrate and nitrite researchers have documented that dietary nitrate absolutely does not lead to cancer. An even bigger mistake is that processed meats get a bad rap for containing nitrites, yet leafy greens contain 80 times more available dietary nitrite. For our health, we need to eat more of these foods not less.