Cardiovascular disease (CVD) claims the life of one Australian every 12 minutes and is the leading cause of death worldwide. Statistics from the Hunter New England Local Health District show that this region very much follows this alarming trend.

The consumption of diets low in vegetables increase the risk of CVD by at least 30%, yet only 8.3% of the Australian population consistently consume the recommended 5 serves of vegetables a day. This indicates a need for public health nutrition advice to be more targeted, simple and effective. Nitric oxide (NO) is a major signalling molecule in the circulatory system, and is a key blood vessel dilator. While NO can be made by the body, NO depletion is a common side effect of aging, diabetes and smoking, and can lead to the development of hypertension and a build-up of fatty plaque in the arteries. Further, NO depletion plays a major role in the development of atherosclerosis and CVD.

Dietary nitrate commonly consumed from vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables and beetroot, can increase the amount of NO in the body, and can be metabolised to NO via the Nitrate-Nitrite-NO pathway. We hypothesise that higher intakes of nitrate rich foods are protective against CVD, especially given that recent clinical trials have demonstrated that dietary nitrate intakes can reduce the severity of CVD risk factors, such as elevated blood pressure, arterial stiffness and platelet aggregation.

High quality studies investigating the effect of long-term dietary nitrate/nitrite intakes and the development of CVD in large population based studies are currently non-existent. As part of my PhD research, I will address this gap in the literature through epidemiological approaches. The findings of this research will be useful in formulating more targeted dietary interventions for CVD prevention and treatment within our community.


Ms Jacklyn Jackson, A/Prof Mark McEvoy, Dr Amanda Patterson

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