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Beet Juice Boosts Brain Health in Older Adults


You may want to put beet juice on your grocery shopping list, especially if you are a Baby Boomer or older. Researchers have shown that drinking beet juice can enhance blood flow to the brain in older adults, which may help boost brain health and cognitive functioning.

Drinking beet juice daily is good for your brain

Previous studies have shown that drinking beet juice can benefit the cardiovascular system by lowering blood pressure, as was illustrated in a recent study at Queen Mary’s William Harvey Research Institute. Investigators at Exeter University have also shown that beet juice improves exercise tolerance along with reducing blood pressure.

In this new study, however, Daniel Kim-Shapiro, director of Wake Forest University’s Translational Science Center noted that “we wanted to show that drinking beet juice also increases perfusion, or blood flow, to the brain,” a finding that could mean a great deal in the fight against dementia.

Why use beet juice? Beets contain a high concentration of nitrates, which, when they enter the body, are transformed into nitrites by good bacteria in the mouth. Research shows that nitrites help open up the blood vessels, which increases blood flow.

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Researchers at the Translational Science Center evaluated 14 adults age 70 and older over a four-day period. The subjects were required to fast for 10 hours before reporting to the lab on each morning of the four days.

On days 1 and 2, the subjects completed a health status report and were assigned to consume either a high- or low-nitrate breakfast. The high-nitrate breakfast included 16 ounces of beet juice. One hour after breakfast on day 2, the subjects underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the brain to record blood flow. They also had blood drawn both before and after breakfast to determine nitrite levels.

On days 3 and 4, the subjects switched diets and went through the same testing and scanning procedures as were done the previous two days.

The subjects’ MRIs revealed that after consuming beet juice, the older adults had an increase in blood flow to the regions of the brain that are associated with deterioration linked to dementia and other cognitive problems. Kim-Shapiro notes that “there are areas in the brain that become poorly perfused as you age, and that’s believed to be associated with dementia and poor cognition.”

Foods that are naturally rich in nitrates, such as beets, celery, cabbage, and other leafy green vegetables, offer numerous health advantages. This current study is the first to uncover a link between drinking beet juice and enhanced blood flow to the brain in older adults, a health benefit that joins lowering blood pressure and improved exercise tolerance.

Vanhatalo A et al. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 2010 Oct; 299(4): R1121-31
Wake Forest University