WASHINGTON — According to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, nitrite and nitrate intake can play a valuable role in reducing blood pressure for those following the D.A.S.H. (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.

The American Meat Institute relays Norman G. Hord, Michigan State researcher, collaborated with University of Texas Health Science Center researchers Yaoping Tang and Nathan Bryan in quantifying levels of nitrites and nitrates in high-nitrate or low-nitrate vegetable and fruit choices based on the D.A.S.H. diet. Their analyses concluded the nitrate concentrations in these patterns — deemed healthy and even therapeutic — ranged as high as 550% above the World Health Organization’s acceptable daily intake for the an average adult.

Approximately 93% of human dietary nitrate intake comes from vegetables and saliva. Nitrate in vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce and beets, is converted to nitrite in the mouth. Nitrite is used as a curing ingredient in meat to stabilize color and flavor and to prevent rancidity. Cured meats, however, contribute less than 5% of total human nitrite intake, other studies show.

"These data call into question the rationale for recommendations to limit nitrate and nitrite consumption from plant foods; a comprehensive re-evaluation of the health effects of food sources of nitrates and nitrites is appropriate," the authors wrote.

"The D.A.S.H. diet forms the basis for public dietary health recommendations in the United States [e.g., MyPyramid.gov] and is widely recommended by private health agencies, such as the American Heart Association," the researchers wrote. "Taken together, the data considered here support the conclusions of the European Food Safety Authority that benefits of vegetable and fruit consumption outweigh any perceived risk of developing cancer from the consumption of nitrate and nitrite in these foods. The strength of the evidence linking the consumption of nitrate- and nitrite-containing plant foods to beneficial health effects supports the consideration of these compounds as nutrients."

The study, funded by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, Michigan State University and the American Heart Association, can be read by clicking www.meatami.com/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/50895.