As if we needed any more convincing on the benefit of this nitric oxide releasing, antioxidant packed and vitamin and mineral infused food source… beetroot is now thought to reduce blood pressure too!
Beetroot juice and nitrates
It makes absolute sense too, with beetroot being a good source of nitrates which are then converted to nitrite, and finally signals the release of Nitric Oxide. Nitric oxide (NO) is a key signalling molecule that acts directly on the cardiovascular system. It therefore effects the flow of blood to all parts of your body, including your muscles and major organs via the circulatory system (veins and arteries). Seeing as nitric oxide acts on the circulatory system, and beetroot promotes the release of nitric oxide, it is no surprise that studies have been conducted on the role of beetroot and its role with blood pressure.
What the research says…
Studies such as this recent piece by the London School of Medicine and Dentistry found that dietary nitrate in the form of daily beetroot juice significantly reduced elevated blood pressure. Subjects were asked to drink 250ml of juice daily, which works out as a daily nitrate dosage of 6.4mmol/day, whilst other subjects were given a nitrate- reduced version of beetroot juice so that the effect of the nitrates could be measured.
What the research found…
The group of people consuming the nitrate based beetroot juice saw an improvement in endothelial (the inner surface that lines the blood vessels) function, as well as a reduction in arterial stiffness. The consequence of this was that the blood vessels were better able to accommodate and transport the blood whilst under high pressure, reducing total blood pressure. The same effects were not seen in the group who consumed the nitrate- reduced juice. This is the first study to find this in a large enough group that is representative of the general population.
It is now thought that beetroot juice could be an affordable and viable method of managing hypertension (high blood pressure), its potential benefits are cumulative, meaning in time they should become stronger. However, it is always advisable for consumers to start with small amounts and asses their body’s tolerance before building up to larger quantities.
Beetroot and exercise performance
The above physiological responses to beetroot juice and improved blood flow lends itself to exercise performance. The effectiveness of beetroot in enhancing exercise and sporting performance is well understood. The ability of beetroot to convert into nitrite, and then into nitric oxide which is known to widen blood vessels, increase blood flow to the muscles, and directly increase oxygen delivery to the working muscles is something many athletes utilise.
One of the best ways to get a concentrated hit of beetroot juice is by taking shots (70ml) of concentrated beetroot juice. A great example is Beet It SPORT Stamina Shot.
Medscape, (2014). Beetroot Juice Lowers Blood Pressure in Hypertensives. Retrieved 4th December, 2014, from discount supplements
Ferreira LF, Behnke BJ, A Toast to Health and Performance! Beetroot Juice Lowers Blood Pressure and the O₂ Cost of Exercise, Journal of Applied Physiology, 2011, 110(3):585-6.
Larsen FJ, Weitzberg E, Lundberg JO, Ekblom B, Dietary Nitrate Reduces Maximal Oxygen Consumption while Maintaining Work Performance in Maximal Exercise, Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 2010, 48(2):342-7.