British Journal of Nutrition

Nitrogen Metabolism

The effect of dietary nitrate on nitrate and nitrite excretion in man

T. H. J. Florina1, G. Nealea2 and J. H. Cummingsa1

a1 MRC Dunn Clinical Nutrition Centre, 100 Tennis Court Road, Cambridge CB2 IQL

a2 Addenbrooke's Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QQ


Dietary nitrate and nitrite may affect colonic pathophysiology. These anions influence fermentation, and nitrite has been shown to augment sodium absorption by the colon and participate in the formation of N-nitroso compounds. There is, however, no general agreement as to how much dietary nitrate and nitrite reaches the colon. To help resolve this question, balance studies were performed on six healthy ileostomy subjects who were given diets that varied in nitrate content from 0.83 to 5.20 mmol/d. Nitrate and nitrite excretion in ileal effluent and urine were measured by anion-exchange chromatography with conductivity detection. There was no significant nitrite in the diets, urine, or ideal effluent. Dietary nitrate was largely excreted in urine (1.31–4.25 mmol/d). The urinary excretion findings indicated net synthesis of nitrate at low dietary intakes and net catabolism of nitrate at high intakes. Nitrate losses in ileal effluent were very low (0.03–0.05 mmol/d, 0.03–0.06 mmol/kg) and unrelated to intake for all the diets. It is concluded that dietary nitrate and nitrite do not enter the colon from the small intestine in amounts that would affect fermentation and mucosal metabolism in man. The possibility of significant amounts of nitrate reaching the colon via blood in normal subjects has not been excluded.

(Received September 05 1989)

(Accepted May 11 1990)