The study, published in Nutrients, also revealed that beetroot juice improved certain biomarkers for heart disease like plasma nitrite levels and systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Beetroot, a deep-red bulb vegetable native to many countries across Central and Eastern Europe, is an excellent source of nitrate, a type of compound that the body naturally produces. Nitrate plays an essential role in blood pressure control and blood circulation. It dilates constricted blood vessels, a key indicator of high blood pressure. Nitrate also increases brain blood flow, which can help delay cognitive decline and prevent dementia.
Several clinical trials on beetroot and beetroot juice consumption have proven the heart-healthy benefits of the vegetable. Often, these trials were conducted on individuals who were at risk of chronic diseases due to old age. For this reason, researchers from Massey University in New Zealand and Thai Union Group PCL, a Thailand-based food company, hypothesized that beetroot would provide a greater improvement in cardiovascular and cognitive functions in older adults than in younger adults.
To examine this hypothesis, the researchers conducted a randomized, double-blind crossover trial on 24 healthy and recreationally active participants who volunteered for the study. The participants were divided into two groups based on a set age range. Thirteen participants were aged 18 to 30, while 11 were between 50 to 70 years old. None of the participants smoked, exercised intensely, or had a history of a chronic disease like dementia and cardiovascular disease.
Participants were asked to visit the laboratory on three separate occasions. The first visit involved the collection of baseline measurements. For the second and third visits, each participant was randomly allocated either a 150 mL beetroot juice or placebo prior to a 30-minute treadmill walk. Prior to and after the consumption of either beetroot juice or placebo, the researchers collected each participant's blood sample and recorded their blood pressure and heart rate.
Upon analysis, the researchers found that supplementation of beetroot juice significantly improved plasma levels in both age groups. However, they observed a greater increase in plasma in older adults than in younger adults. This finding suggests that nitrate supplementation may help minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease, especially in later years.
The older adults also showed significant improvements in diastolic blood pressure compared to the younger adults, although the latter experienced improvements as well. However, beetroot juice supplementation caused no significant difference in terms of cognitive performance, mood and overall cognitive health. According to the researchers, the lack of difference may be due to the small sample size.
Beetroot is an incredibly nutritious root vegetable that offers several benefits outside of cardiovascular health, such as the following:
Beetroot contains plant compounds known as betalains that help alleviate inflammation. Phytochemicals, a type of plant chemical that gives beetroot its color, also reduce oxidative stress that causes inflammation.
Beetroot is an excellent source of iron, an essential component of red blood cells. Low levels of iron are linked to poor blood circulation and anemia, a nutritional deficiency marked by extreme fatigue and paleness.
Protects the liver
Antioxidants in beetroot help protect the liver from inflammation. They also enhance the liver's ability to rid the body of toxins and impurities.
Boosts physical performance
Compounds in beetroot juice, such as nitrates and betalains, may also help boost physical performance. These compounds improve blood circulation, which also boosts energy production. (Related: Beat juice can help heart patients keep exercising.)
Beetroot is a healthy addition to a balanced diet. Reap the health benefits of this highly nutritious root vegetable when you eat it raw or drink beetroot juice.