Beetroot may offer a nutrition-based solution to improving blood pressure.
The British Heart Foundation recently funded a study to examine the influence of eating healthy vegetables in improving circulatory health. Specifically, researchers examined the effect of beetroot juice in lowering blood pressure.
High dietary nitrates can be found in vegetables such as leafy greens and beetroot and have been shown to have positive effects on cardiovascular health. High dietary nitrates go through a process where they are eventually converted to nitric oxide, which widens blood vessels and aids blood flow.
Researchers hoped to show that the increased intake of vegetables could provide a simple and affordable means to improve cardiovascular health among people with high blood pressure—a condition that has been diagnosed in more than 77 million adults in the US alone, and is considered a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
The study involved eight women and seven men with high blood pressure, no other medical issues, and weren’t taking any high blood pressure medications.
Participants in the study consumed 8 oz (1 cup or 250 mL) of beetroot juice, which contained 0.2 g of dietary nitrate—about the equivalent amount found in a large bowl of lettuce or two beetroots.
Researchers measured systolic blood pressure, the top number which measures pressure in the arteries during a heartbeat, and diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number which measures pressure between heartbeats. They found that, compared to the placebo group, participants’ blood pressure reduced for both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Researchers were surprised by how little nitrate was needed to see such an effect. They also reported that the improved blood pressure continued even after nitrate levels returned to normal. The greatest effect occurred three to six hours after drinking the juice, but the effects were still present 24 hours later.
The study concluded that there may be clinical benefits for those who need to lower their blood pressure, although due to the preliminary nature of the study, more research will be required to identify long-term effects.