So, what exactly is the endothelium? The endothelium is a thin membrane made up of flat cells that lines the inside of the heart and blood vessels. Endothelial cells release NO which controls vascular relaxation which directly improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure. These cells also release enzymes and other factors that control blood clotting, immunity, and platelet adhesion.
Endothelial NO is made by an enzyme called endothelial nitric oxide synthase (or eNOS for short). This enzyme works by converting L-arginine plus oxygen to L-citrulline and NO.
The diagram below shows the location of the endothelial layer in a blood vessel, and how NO relaxes smooth muscle cells, resulting in vasodilation (relaxation and widening of the blood vessel).
Endothelial Dysfunction and the Role of NO
Endothelial dysfunction is a condition when blood vessels become problematic. Older age is the number one risk factor for endothelial dysfunction, and it is thought that the process of endothelial dysfunction begins in our 40's. The underlying mechanisms involve chronic oxidative stress and inflammation. This is one reason why a diet high in fruits and vegetables which contain antioxidants is protective for the cardiovascular system.
A reduced level of NO is the hallmark of endothelial dysfunction and there are several factors that contribute to this problem. The enzyme that makes NO (eNOS) becomes "uncoupled" and switches to producing a molecule called superoxide instead of NO. Superoxide is the enemy because it reacts readily with oxygen to cause damaging free radicals. Under these conditions, blood vessels narrow, and blood pressure goes up. In addition, platelets are 'activated' and become sticky which is a precursor to blood clot formation.
An interesting fact about activated platelets! Many of you will be aware that some people take aspirin daily. The way aspirin works are by reducing the activation of platelets, thereby reducing their blood-clotting action.
When it comes to supporting healthy NO levels, there are certain natural ingredients that are highly effective. Xtend-Life's new product VasQFlow delivers a fully efficacious dose of research-backed ingredients for boosting NO for healthy blood flow and circulation support.
VasQFlow and NO
In developing VasQFlow we set an incredibly high bar, looking for natural ingredients that are backed by the most robust research to help support healthy NO levels. When we review research, we look for studies that are peer-reviewed by other scientists, published in reputable journals and have the appropriate controls (such as placebo) and blinding protocols. Blinding in this context just means that the people in the trial are not aware whether they are taking the supplement or the placebo. Blinding helps avoid getting biased results.
We reviewed literally dozens of potential ingredients before deciding on the final formulation. Only a select few ingredients made the cut. On that note, we'd like to introduce the hero ingredients of VasQFlow!
Quercetin is a plant flavonoid that is found in many fruits, vegetables, leaves, seed and grains. Quercetin is backed by an abundance of clinical research showing that it supports healthy blood pressure. Quercetin is a potent antioxidant and many studies have shown that it improves endothelial function. It works by increasing NO which increases vasodilation.
Grape Seed Extract
Grape seed extract is high in polyphenols, especially proanthocyanins which provide strong antioxidant capacity. Our grape seed extract is especially pure and potent. It is made using 100% purified water as the only solvent, ensuring total purity! It comes from grapes that are grown exclusively in New Zealand. Due to the high level of atmospheric UV light, grapes grown in New Zealand contain twice as much antioxidant capacity compared to French grapes.
There is a large body of high-quality clinical research showing that grape seed extract lowers blood pressure. It works via a variety of mechanisms to encourage blood vessel relaxation and to reduce inflammation. One way in which grape seed extract works is to increase the amount of the enzyme eNOS. Hence increasing the eNOS means more NO is produced which helps relax the smooth muscle of blood vessels.
Red Spinach Extract
Red spinach extract is particularly high in nitrates. Beetroot powder is another popular product that people consume for its health-promoting nitrate content.
There is sometimes confusion regarding the differences between nitrates and nitrites, and whether these are healthy or not, given the concerns around nitrate content in processed meats.
Nitrates consist of one nitrogen molecule and three oxygen molecules (chemical formula NO3), whereas nitrites consist of one nitrogen molecule and two oxygen molecules (chemical formula NO2).
Nitrates are converted to nitrites in the body. Nitrites then go on to form either NO or nitrosamines. NO is an essential molecule in the body with a wide array of health benefits (see our blog The Many Health Benefits of Nitric Oxide for more information).
Both nitrates and nitrites can become hazardous if they form nitrosamines. The problem arises when nitrates or nitrites are used as preservatives in meat products. When nitrates or nitrites are subjected to high heat - for example by frying bacon - nitrosamines are produced. The problem is compounded by the fact that meats are high in protein which is made up of amino acids. On exposure to heat, the combination of nitrates/nitrites and amino acids provides the perfect conditions for nitrosamines to form.
The nitrates and nitrites found in vegetables are unlikely to produce nitrosamines because people rarely cook vegetables at high heat, and they don't contain high levels of protein.
The bottom line is nitrates and nitrites from vegetables are health-promoting, through their ability to increase NO. In contrast, the nitrates and nitrites found in processed meats can be hazardous, so it is best to avoid processed meats that contain nitrates or nitrites as preservatives. If you simply can't live without bacon, look for products that are nitrate/nitrite free.
Red spinach extract is like a super-charged version of beetroot, and as we have found out, some red spinach extracts are far superior to others! In our journey to find the best ingredients for VasQFlow, we spent months testing different vegetable powders for their nitrate content.
We started by testing three different types of New Zealand-grown beetroot powders. Unfortunately, they all had very low nitrate levels, so we had to search for a superior ingredient and came across red spinach extract. One of the first things we noticed with red spinach extract is that it does not contain any oxalates, which can be high in beetroot powders, and can contribute to kidney problems in some people. So that was an immediate tick for red spinach extract.
Before settling on the most potent version of red spinach extract on the market, we tested red spinach extract from two other suppliers. Our red spinach extract contains at least 9% nitrates which is by far the highest level of nitrates of all the red spinach extracts available. The red spinach extract in VasQFlow is 36 times higher in nitrates than beetroot powder, meaning, you're getting a superior, health-promoting nitrate boost when you take VasQFlow(and without the oxalates found in beetroot powder!).
Red spinach extract is popular among sports people and for good reason. It significantly increases the amount of nitrates in plasma and this is considered to be a robust measure of the amount of NO in the body.
As would be expected when there is an increase in NO - having a positive effect on blood flow, red spinach extract provides benefits for athletes. Ventilatory threshold is a measure of exercise intensity. It's when your breathing becomes laboured, and you feel you just can't draw in as much as air your body wants. In one study, those taking a red spinach extract had a much higher ventilatory threshold compared to those taking a placebo, meaning, it took longer for athletes to get breathless when they were taking red spinach extract.
Black Garlic Extract
Garlic extracts have been shown to help with cardiovascular health and blood pressure and are some of the most popular supplements for overall cardiovascular health. However, you may not be aware of how or why garlic is so effective.
There is a difference between regular garlic supplements and black aged garlic extracts. Aged garlic extract is a better choice because it contains the stable and standardised component allylcysteine. In regular garlic supplements, the active compounds are very volatile and prone to degradation. In the process of aging garlic, volatile and unstable compounds found in fresh garlic are converted to more stable compounds, of which allylcysteine is the most abundant. Aged garlic is also gentler on the digestive system and less likely to cause problems for those who are sensitive to fresh garlic. During the highly controlled process of aging the garlic, the bulbs turn black, hence the term "black garlic extract".
Black garlic extract (often referred to as aged garlic extract) is backed by a huge amount of high-quality scientific data showing that it supports healthy blood flow and health blood pressure.
The way black garlic extract works is by stimulating NO production and inhibiting a molecule called angiotensin II. Angiotensin II is a molecule that raises blood pressure by causing vasoconstriction (tightening of the blood vessels). Hence, black garlic extract promotes vasodilation and a reduction in blood pressure by multiple mechanisms including increased NO production.
VasQFlow and Your Health
The combination of hero ingredients in VasQFlow is truly unique. There are no other products on the market today that deliver such comprehensive benefits for healthy NO levels. When you have healthier NO levels you experience healthier blood flow which has numerous health benefits. We look forward to you experiencing the whole-body benefits of this remarkable new product!
An all natural supplement containing research-backed ingredients for boosting NO for healthy blood flow and circulation support.Shop now
Reversal of age-related vascular dysfunction through dietary nitrate supplementation. C. Rammos U.B. Hendgen-Cotta, M. Totzeck, A. Bernard, J. Sobierajski, P. Stock, A. Goedecke, M. Kelm, T. Rassaf. European Heart Journal, Volume 34, Issue suppl_1, 1 August 2013, P609.
Impact of dietary nitrate on age-related diastolic dysfunction. Christos Rammos, Ulrike B Hendgen-Cotta, Matthias Totzeck, Julia Pohl, Peter Lüdike, Ulrich Flögel, René Deenen, Karl Köhrer, Brent A French, Axel Gödecke, Malte Kelm, Tienush Rassaf. Eur J Heart Fail. 2016 Jun;18(6):599-610.
You’re Only as Old as Your Arteries: Translational Strategies for Preserving Vascular Endothelial Function with Aging. Douglas R. Seals, Rachelle E. Kaplon, Rachel A. Gioscia-Ryan, and Thomas J. LaRocca. PHYSIOLOGY 29: 250 –264, 2014; doi:10.1152/physiol.00059.2013
Effects of Quercetin on Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Maria-Corina Serban, Amirhossein Sahebkar, Alberto Zanchetti, Dimitri P Mikhailidis, George Howard, Diana Antal, Florina Andrica, Ali Ahmed, Wilbert S Aronow, Paul Muntner, Gregory Y H Lip, Ian Graham, Nathan Wong, Jacek Rysz, Maciej Banach. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016 Jul 12;5(7):e002713.
The dietary flavonoid quercetin modulates endothelial nitric oxide: superoxide imbalance via expression changes in p47phox under hypertensive conditions in vitro. Jones H, Gordon A, Magwenzi S, et al. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2016 Apr;60(4):787-97.
The impact of grape seed extract treatment on blood pressure changes: A meta-analysis of 16 randomized controlled trials. Haili Zhang, Shuang Liu, Lan Li, Shisong Liu, Shuqi Liu, Jia Mi, Geng Tian. Sports (Basel). 2017 Oct 16;5(4):80.
Red Spinach Extract Increases Ventilatory Threshold during Graded Exercise Testing. Angelique N Moore, Cody T Haun, Wesley C Kephart, Angelia M Holland, Christopher B Mobley, David D Pascoe, Michael D Roberts, Jeffrey S Martin. Sports (Basel) 2017 Oct 16;5(4):80.
Dr. Amanda Wiggins
Xtend-Life Research Scientist
Dr. Amanda Wiggins works with Xtend-Life as the Chief Research Scientist, where she can use her passion for science, research and nutrition.