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Beetroot 'may cut blood pressure'?

Root vegetable, and potential lifesaver?
Drinking 500ml of beetroot juice a day can significantly reduce blood pressure, UK research suggests.
The key beneficial ingredient appears to be nitrate, which is also found in green, leafy vegetables.

The researchers found that in healthy volunteers blood pressure was reduced within an hour of drinking the juice.

The study, by Barts and the London School of Medicine and the Peninsula Medical School, could suggest a low-cost way to treat hypertension.

Drinking beetroot juice, or consuming other nitrate-rich vegetables, might be a simple way to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system

Professor Amrita Ahluwalia
Barts and The London School of Medicine
Previously the protective effects of vegetable-rich diets have been attributed to their antioxidant vitamin content.

While it took less than an hour to note a reduction in blood pressure in the beetroot juice tests, it was more pronounced after three to four hours and a degree of reduction continued to be observed for up to 24 hours, the report published on the online journal Hypertension said.

Saliva breakdown

The researchers showed that nitrate in the juice is converted in saliva, by bacteria on the tongue, into nitrite.

This nitrite-containing saliva is swallowed, and in the acidic environment of the stomach is either converted into nitric oxide or re-enters the circulation as nitrite.

The peak time of reduction in blood pressure correlated with the appearance and peak levels of nitrite in the circulation.

No such drop in blood pressure was recorded in a second group of volunteers, who did not swallow their saliva while drinking beetroot juice, or for three hours afterwards.

More than 25% of the world's adult population are hypertensive, and it has been estimated that this figure will increase to 29% by 2025.

Hypertension causes around 50% of coronary heart disease, and approximately 75% of strokes.

In total, cardiovascular disease kills over 110,000 people in England every year.

Researcher Professor Amrita Ahluwalia said: "Our research suggests that drinking beetroot juice, or consuming other nitrate-rich vegetables, might be a simple way to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, and might also be an additional approach that one could take in the modern day battle against rising blood pressure."

Professor Graham McGregor, of the British Hypertension Society, described the research as "interesting".

He said: "This shows that beetroot juice lowers blood pressure in the short term in volunteers with normal blood pressure.

"What we need now is research to see whether it has an effect on people with high blood pressure over a much longer period of time."

Professor McGregor said there was a growing body of work showing that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables had a beneficial impact on hypertension.

But he said previous research had suggested that potassium may be the key mineral.

Victoria Taylor, of the British Heart Foundation, said: "Whilst beetroot juice was used in this study, it is unlikely that people will be able to - or wish to - consume it in the quantities used in the research.

"Although we know that eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables as part of a well balanced diet is beneficial to heart health, we do not know yet whether there are certain fruits or vegetables that are more helpful than others and so for now, people should continue to choose a wide variety in achieving their five a day. "

Extract from Bob Longmore's article in the Australian Pharmacist published Sept 2008, vol 27, No 9, pages768-770 under the title Beetroot for better health.

In a right pickle – the case for beetroot.
By Bob Longmore

Few would think of beetroot as a herbal medicine but present evidence suggests that the root is a rich source of therapeutic benefits.

Perhaps the most exciting feature of beetroot may be its role as cancer preventative or at least supplement to healthy resistance to cancer.

Recent research findings bear witness to this faith put in the use of beetroot juice by cancer patients. Beetroot extract exhibited in vitro inhibition of Epstein-Barr virus early antigen induction.

I am a strong supporter of the ‘food as medicine’ philosophy and find the recent findings on the value of beetroot almost a life changing experience! While we may not see beetroot and its active constituents on the Pharmacy shelves in the guise of a formulated complementary medicine, I am sure that readers should take the findings to heart and act accordingly. Let fresh and cooked beetroot become an important addition to the diet.


Drinking a glass of beet juice may have an immediate impact on lowering blood pressure, according to a new study.

The study shows that within hours of drinking it, beet juice lowered systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by an average of 4-5 points among a small group of healthy men.

Researchers say that drop may seem small, but on a public health level a reduction like that would equate to a 10% reduction in deaths due to heart disease.

“It’s promising that we can see an effect from a single dose,” says researcher Leah Coles, PhD, a research fellow at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia. “That effect might be even greater over the long term if they are drinking it day upon day.”

Beetroot Benefits

Previous studies have shown that beet juice, also known as beetroot juice, can lower blood pressure in a laboratory setting. But researchers say this is the first study to look at the effects of adding beet juice to a heathy person’s diet without making any other diet or lifestyle changes.

The results appear in Nutrition Journal.

In the study, 15 men and 15 women drank either 17.6 ounces of a beet juice beverage consisting of about three-fourths beet juice and one-fourth apple juice, or a placebo juice. They were then monitored for 24 hours. The same procedure was repeated two weeks later, with those who drank the placebo on the first round receiving beetroot juice on the second.

Among both men and women, the results showed a trend to lower systolic blood pressure six hours after drinking the beet juice.

But when researchers limited their analysis to men only, they found a significant reduction of about 4.7 points among those who drank the beetroot juice.

Previous studies have also suggested that beetroot’s blood-pressure-lowering effects may not be as strong in women.

In this case, Coles says it may be partially explained by the fact that the women in the study tended to be older, and many were on prescription medications, such as oral contraceptives.

Please note the opinions expressed on this web site are not to be relied upon. You should always have your health monitored by a health professional.

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