Researchers now know why beetroot juice lowers blood pressure - it's from beneficial nitrates that relax blood vessels and improve blood flow. In a study, scientists from Queen Mary’s William Harvey Research Institute found that nitrate in beetroot have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system that could provide a natural treatment for high blood pressure.
Study author Amrita Ahluwalia, Professor of Vascular Biology at Queen Mary's William Harvey Research Institute says, "We showed that beetroot and nitrate capsules are equally effective in lowering blood pressure indicating that it is the nitrate content of beetroot juice that underlies its potential to reduce blood pressure. We also found that only a small amount of juice is needed – just 250ml - to have this effect, and that the higher the blood pressure at the start of the study the greater the decrease caused by the nitrate."
The researchers say beetroot lowered blood pressure within 24 hours for individuals taking capsules or juice. "Our previous study two years ago found that drinking beetroot juice lowered blood pressure; now we know how it works."
Beetroot could help prevent stroke and heart disease using a natural approach. Professor Ahluwalia said. "We gave inorganic nitrate capsules or beetroot juice to healthy volunteers and compared their blood pressure responses and the biochemical changes occurring in the circulation." Nitrates are used to treat heart disease and manufactured pharmaceutically in the form of nitroglycerin tablets and other drugs that relax and dilate the blood vessels. Other fruits and vegetables that benefit cardiovascular health include grapes and watermelon.
Nitrate, or NO3, is an inorganic compound composed of nitrogen and oxygen. Beetroot is rich in nitrates that cause the blood vessels to relax, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure. The scientists say two years ago they found the blood pressure lowering benefits and now they know how it works. The current study shows the benefit for cardiovascular health in beetroot comes from nitrate.
Hypertension, Jun 2010; doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.110.153536