The impacts of dietary nitrates and nitrites on human health have been a controversial topic for many years. However, the risk and benefit assessment of nitrates and nitrites is complicated by the large variation in nitrate and nitrite intake among people and the endogenous nitrite formation in the body. This study conducted a probabilistic risk-benefit assessment of dietary nitrates and nitrites based on internal dose by integrating exogenous and endogenous exposures with human trial data on cardiovascular benefits. A total diet study was carried out to quantify the age-specific dietary intakes of nitrates and nitrites. A previously well-validated human toxicokinetic model was used to predict internal doses for different age groups. In addition, the integrated approach was applied to different populations from different countries/regions based on reported exposure estimates to conduct a comprehensive risk-benefit assessment of dietary nitrates and nitrites. The results demonstrated that vegetable consumption was the main contributor to the internal nitrate and nitrite levels in all age groups. Exposure to nitrates and nitrites exceeding acceptable daily intakes in a variety of foods showed cardiovascular benefits. The probabilistic risk assessment showed that the exposure to nitrates and nitrites did not pose an appreciable health and safety risk. Therefore, the present results suggest that dietary nitrates and nitrites have clear cardiovascular benefits that may outweigh potential risks. Our analysis contributes significantly to addressing the controversy regarding risks and benefits from dietary nitrates and nitrites, and our approach could be applied to other dietary constituents with the potential for both risks and benefits.
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