Beat High Blood Pressure with Beet Juice
Beet juice (beetroot juice) may not be in your refrigerator right now, but if you have high blood pressure, it might be time to put it on your shopping list. A new study found that less than 4 ounces of beet juice can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in normotensive adults.
Move over OJ, beet juice is here
It’s not likely beet juice will take over the popular spots held by OJ and apple juice, but juice made from beets is gaining respect for its apparent medicinal value. A new study from the University of Reading is just one example.
The study involved two experiments: one involving beetroot juice alone and the other using bread products to which beet juice was added. In the single-blind, cross-over juice study, 18 men with normal blood pressure were assigned to drink 0 g, 100 g, 250 g, or 500 g of beet juice. All the men were in a controlled environment and monitored for 24 hours.
After three hours, systolic blood pressure declined 13 mmHg and diastolic pressure declined 16.6 mmHg when the men consumed 100 g beetroot juice. When 500 g of beetroot juice was ingested, the corresponding drops in blood pressure were even greater: 22 mmHg and 18 mmHg, respectively.
In the beetroot and bread experiment, 14 men with normal blood pressure ate one of three different breads: one with no beetroot juice, one with 100 g white beetroot juice, and one with 100 g red juice. The decline in blood pressure was 19 mmHg systolic and 24 mmHg diastolic in the red beetroot bread group and 17 mmHg systolic and 23 mmHg diastolic in the white beetroot bread group.
Professor Julie Lovegrove and her colleagues explained that “Results from these studies are the first to demonstrate that acute ingestion of beetroot juice lowered blood pressure in a near dose-dependent manner in healthy normotensive individuals.” Based on the results of the bread experiment, it appears that nitrates and not the betalains (which give beets their color) have a role in lowering blood pressure.
What are nitrates?
The “secret” behind the medicinal value of beets and its juice is believed to be an ingredient called nitrates. Beets are a rich source of nitrates, and when you ingest them, some are converted to nitrites, which are absorbed in the stomach.
When nitrites enter the blood stream, nitric oxide (NO) synthesis occurs, and nitric oxide plays a critical role in blood flow by widening blood vessels, which can reduce blood pressure. The authors noted that “It is possible that the nitrite derived from ingested nitrate, in the present study, provided an intravascular source of NO that resulted in vasodilation within the microvasculature to produce a decrease in peripheral resistance and therefore a reduction in blood pressure.”
Other studies of beet juice
Scientists from Queen Mary’s William Harvey Research Institute previously reported that nitrates were believed to be the reason why beet juice was helpful in lowering blood pressure and that beetroot might be a natural treatment for high blood pressure.
University of Exeter researchers have explored use of beetroot juice in the enhancement of athletic performance and endurance. In one such study, nine male competitive cyclists competed in two time trials twice: one time after drinking beet juice that contained nitrates, the other after drinking beet juice that had been depleted of nitrates.
None of the cyclists knew which drink they were consuming at any time. Overall, the men cycled faster on both time trials when they drank beet juice with nitrates than when they consumed the juice without nitrates.
Beet juice could also help older adults fight dementia. In a study conducted at Wake Forest University’s Translational Science Center, researchers found that older adults who drank beet juice had an increase in blood flow to areas of the brain associated with deterioration linked to dementia.
Beet juice appears to offer several health benefits, but talk to your doctor before trying it, as beets are high in oxalates, which can cause kidney problems in some people. Otherwise, beet juice may be a natural way to beat high blood pressure.
Hobbs DA et al. Blood pressure-lowering effects of beetroot juice and novel beetroot-enriched bread products in normotensive male subjects. British Journal of Nutrition 2012; doi:10.1017/S0007114512000190
Kapil V et al. Inorganic nitrate supplementation lowers blood pressure in humans: role for nitrate-derived NO. Hypertension 2010 Aug; 56(2): 274-81
Lansley KE et al. Acute dietary nitrate supplementation improves cycling time trial performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2011; 43(6): 1125
Image: Wikimedia Commons