Beneficial Nitrates In Beetroot Juice Lower Blood Pressure
April 16, 2013

Beneficial Nitrates In Beetroot Juice Lower Blood Pressure

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Many foods we eat may not be so good for us. But many others provide crucial benefits for healthy living. It may come as no surprise that one food, the beet, or more appropriately, beetroot juice, may help provide some of those crucial benefits we see in a wide array of other foods.

Of course we all know we should always eat more fruits and vegetables, but how often have you heard your mother say, ℠Make sure you drink your beetroot juice?´

Researchers, led by Amrita Ahluwalia, PhD, professor of vascular pharmacology at The Barts and The London Medical School, have reported in a new paper just a cup of beetroot juice per day may help reduce blood pressure. Their findings are published in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Hypertension.

Ahluwalia and colleagues found that a dose of eight ounces (one cup) of the dark red elixir could help people with high blood pressure drop their readings by about 7 percent. The researchers believe it is the high nitrate concentration in the root which leads to this effect.

While the results of the study are significant, the preliminary findings do not yet suggest supplementing your diet with beetroot juice will have significant benefits for your health, according to the team.

"Our hope is that increasing one's intake of vegetables with a high dietary nitrate content, such as green leafy vegetables or beetroot, might be a lifestyle approach that one could easily employ to improve cardiovascular health," Ahluwalia said in a statement.

The beetroot juice used in the study contained about 0.2g of dietary nitrate, about the equivalent of what would be found in two beetroots. The body converts nitrate to a chemical called nitrite and then to nitric oxide in the blood. Nitric oxide is known to widen blood vessels and aids with blood flow.

"We were surprised by how little nitrate was needed to see such a large effect," Ahluwalia said. "This study shows that compared to individuals with healthy blood pressure much less nitrate is needed to produce the kinds of decreases in blood pressure that might provide clinical benefits in people who need to lower their blood pressure. However, we are still uncertain as to whether this effect is maintained in the long term."

As well as in beetroot juice, high levels of nitrate can also be found in celery, cabbage and other leafy green veggies such as spinach and lettuce, reports Jenny Hope of Mail Online.

While most of these vegetables can commonly be found in your grocer´s produce aisle, beetroot juice may be a little harder to come by. However, it can be found in most health food stores and some grocers do stock it in their health food, produce or drink aisles.

For the study, Ahluwalia and colleagues recruited eight women and seven men with systolic blood pressure between 140 and 159 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), who did not have any other medical complications and were not taking blood pressure medication.

The researchers gave the participants roughly 8.5 ounces (250 mL) of beetroot juice or water containing a low amount of nitrate, and monitored their blood pressure for 24 hours after they had consumed their drink.

When compared to the placebo (water) group, those who had consumed the beetroot juice had reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure — even after nitrite circulating through their blood stream had returned to normal levels prior to drinking the elixir. The researchers found the greatest benefit of the nitrate three to six hours after the drink was consumed, but still recorded beneficial data after 24 hours.

With more than 77 million Americans battling high blood pressure, the researchers said eating more nitrate-rich vegetables could be an easily accessible and inexpensive way of combating the dangerous effects of hypertension, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Getting people to eat more fruit and vegetables is a challenge. However, Ahluwalia hopes the study findings will give some people the push they need to eat healthier.

"In the U.K., the general public is told that they should be eating five portions of fruit or vegetables a day but this can be hard to do. Perhaps we should have a different approach to dietary advice. If one could eat just one (fruit or vegetable) a day, this is one more than nothing and should be viewed as positive," said Ahluwalia.

The USDA recommends Americans fill half their plate with fruits and veggies. The AHA recommends eight or more fruit and vegetable servings be eaten every day.

The study was funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).