Association of dietary nitrate intake with retinal microvascular structure in older adults

Bamini Gopinath*, Gerald Liew, Joshua R. Lewis, Lauren C. Blekkenhorst, Catherine Bondonno, George Burlutsky, Jonathan M. Hodgson, Paul Mitchell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Existing research suggests that changes to retinal vascular caliber reflect nitric oxide (NO)-dependent endothelial dysfunction. Dietary nitrate is an important source of NO; however, studies on the link between dietary nitrate intake and retinal microvasculature are lacking. We aimed to assess the cross-sectional association between intake of dietary nitrate (from vegetable and non-vegetable sources) and retinal arteriolar and venular caliber among older adults.

Participants from the Blue Mountains Eye Study aged 49+ years with complete data at baseline on diet and retinal vessel measures were analyzed (n = 2813). Dietary intake was assessed using a validated semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire. Nitrate intake from vegetable and non-vegetable sources was estimated using a validated comprehensive database and other published data where necessary. Fundus photographs were taken and retinal vascular caliber measured using validated computer-assisted techniques and summarized.

Participants in the lowest versus highest tertile of vegetable nitrate intake had significantly narrower retinal arterioles: 186.2 ± 0.48 versus 187.6 ± 0.48 µm (multivariable-adjusted p = 0.04). After multivariable adjustment, each 10-unit higher intake of total nitrate and vegetable nitrate was associated with 0.089 ± 0.004 and 0.090 ± 0.004 µm wider retinal arteriolar caliber, respectively, both p = 0.03. Each 10-unit higher vegetable nitrate intake was associated with 0.092 ± 0.005 µm narrower retinal venules (p = 0.05).

Intake of dietary nitrate, particularly from vegetable sources, was associated with beneficial variations in both retinal arteriolar and venular caliber among older adults. Further research into associations between dietary nitrate and the retinal microvasculature could allow for greater understanding and possible prevention of clinical cardiovascular events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2057-2063
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Nutrition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Blue Mountains Eye Study
  • nitrate
  • retinal vascular caliber
  • older adults
  • nitric oxide


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