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Boost Health With Beetroot Juice

By Professor Gordon S. Lynch

The nitrate content of beetroot juice can help lower blood pressure and keep you exercising for longer.

Drink it down

Researchers have found that the nitrate content of beetroot juice can help lower blood pressure. A study in the journal Hypertension reported that blood pressure was reduced within 24 hours in people who drank as little as 250 millilitres of beetroot juice or took nitrate tablets.
The higher the blood pressure, the greater the impact of the nitrates. The decrease in blood pressure after taking beetroot juice was much more pronounced in men, presumably because women are better at naturally processing nitrate in their bodies.
Beetroot and nitrate capsules were equally effective in lowering blood pressure, identifying the nitrate content of beetroot juice as the mechanism behind its blood pressure lowering effects.
The inorganic nitrate content in beetroot is changed into the gas nitric oxide (NO) when ingested. NO is a potent vasodilator that relaxes the smooth muscle lining the artery walls which keeps the blood vessels open and relaxed, helping to keep blood pressure down.

Hit hypertension with vegies

High blood pressure or ‘hypertension' is sometimes called the "silent killer" because more often than not you can't feel the symptoms and there are few warning signs. Having high blood pressure increases your risk for getting heart disease and stroke as well as kidney disease.
Hypertension can affect anyone of any race, age or gender, but it can be controlled, to a certain extent, by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Powerful medications are often required to keep blood pressure within acceptable healthy limits.
Given that more than 25 per cent of the world's adult population is hypertensive, this research is important because it suggests there might be a more "natural" approach for bringing down blood pressure. Nitrates are found in a number of vegetables, not just beetroot.
Dark leafy green vegetables are recognised for their beneficial effects on cardiovascular health because of their high inorganic content, which comes from nitrates in the soil. More research is needed to determine whether these other vegetables can match the effects of beetroot juice.

Beetroot juice performance boost

Another study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that drinking beetroot juice could boost endurance capacity.
Researchers studied eight men aged 19-38 years who drank 500 millilitres of organic beetroot juice for six consecutive days before completing an exercise test on a stationary bike. The study was repeated except that this time the men were given a placebo drink of blackcurrant cordial for the six days preceding the exercise test.
After drinking the beetroot juice, the men were able to exercise for around 90 seconds longer than when they were given the placebo, which was estimated to translate to a two per cent reduction in the time taken to cover a set distance.
The group drinking the beetroot juice also ended up with a lower resting blood pressure.
The researchers concluded that the effects of beetroot juice were unlikely to be matched even by training and that professional and amateur athletes were very likely to be interested in its potential ergogenic (performance enhancing) effects. Those with poor health and fitness might also benefit from a dietary supplement like beetroot juice that could help them complete the tasks of daily living.

Check with your doctor

Don’t forego your blood pressure medication thinking that simply drinking beetroot juice will have the same effect. Always consult with your doctor before changing or going off these medications. Blood pressure medications are powerful drugs that exert very important effects and so changing doses or going off them completely is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Remember to check with your doctor first!
Bailey SJ, Winyard P, Vanhatalo A, Blackwell JR, Dimenna FJ, Wilkerson DP, Tarr J, Benjamin N, Jones AM (2009) Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology 107: 1144-1155.
Kapil V, Milsom AB, Okorie M, Maleki-Toyserkani S, Akram F, Rehman F, Arghandawi S, Pearl V, Benjamin N, Loukogeorgakis S, MacAllister R, Hobbs AJ, Webb AJ, Ahluwalia A (2010) Inorganic nitrate supplementation lowers blood pressure in humans. Role for nitrite-derived NO. Hypertension 56: 274-281.


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