Harmful Effects of Nitric Oxide

Some bodybuilders take nitric oxide to boost their workout performance.
Some bodybuilders take nitric oxide to boost their workout performance. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Health food and vitamin stores are stocked with bottles of supplements that promise to increase energy, strengthen muscles and help the body recover faster after a grueling workout -- just as nitric oxide claims to do. However, just because supplements are available for purchase does not mean that they're free of dangerous side-effects, and nitric oxide is no exception.

Effects on the Body

Nitric oxide is a gas made by the body that causes arteries to dilate. When this occurs, arterial walls relax and blood flow increases. Increased blood flow delivers more nutrients and oxygen to muscles while also removing more metabolic waste.

Medical Uses

Since discovering the effects of nitric oxide on the body, modern medical researchers have found ways to harness its artery-opening power. When administered by a ventilator, nitric oxide helps treat newborns and premature babies who are in respiratory failure. Also, nitric oxide research led to the development of Viagra.


Nitric oxide is available in a supplement form that many bodybuilders prize. The Nitric Oxide Supplements Guide reports that nitric oxide is a popular supplement because it provides "noticeable gain in muscle mass, faster recovery and strength enhancement." Such results can be attributed to nitric oxide's ability to quickly deliver nutrients and oxygen to muscles.

Common Side-Effects

People who use nitric oxide may experience some side-effects. Stomach problems such as nausea and diarrhea are often reported. Users may also get headaches and experience weakness and exhaustion. Usually these side-effects disappear once the body has adjusted to the supplement. Other side-effects include heart palpitations, bloating and skin irritation. Some nitric oxide users have also reported fainting, which may occur if a person's body cannot tolerate the supplement.

Potential Dangers

It's possible for the body to have too much nitric oxide gas in the blood stream, which can lead to blood poisoning. A person experiencing a nitric oxide overdose may have dangerously low blood pressure, which can lead to death. The Nitric Oxide Supplement Guide compares a nitric oxide overdose to a stroke since, just as with a stroke, the body's nerve cells do not receive oxygen. This causes the body to produce large amounts of nitric oxide, which attack the brain's neurons and may lead to death.

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