The Auburn University football team is claiming beet root improves their athletic performance. It’s not pregame hype, a study from Kanas State University supports the claim and they say it also benefits heart failure patients.
“Our research, published in the journal Physiology in 2013, has shown that the nitrate found in beetroot concentrate increases blood flow to skeletal muscles during exercise,” said David Poole, professor of exercise kinesiology and anatomy and physiology at Kansas State University. He and Scott Ferguson, doctoral student in anatomy and physiology, latest research “Microvascular oxygen pressures in muscles comprised of different fiber types: Impact of dietary nitrate supplementation,” was published in the Journal of Nitric Oxide, Biology and Chemistry this month. This work provides the basis for how beetroot juice may benefit football players by preferentially increasing blood flow to fast-twitch muscle fibers – the ones used for explosive running. In addition to improving athletic performance, the research also found that beetroot juice can improve the quality of life for heart failure patients.
“Remember, for every football player in the United States, there are many thousands of heart failure patients that would benefit from this therapy,” Poole said, “It’s a big deal because even if you can only increase oxygen delivery by 10%, that can be the difference between a patient being wheelchair-bound versus getting up and walking around and interacting with his or her family.”
The benefits of beetroot come from the nitrate found within it. The amount of nitrate in one 70ml bottle of beetroot juice is about the same amount found in 100 grams of spinach. “When consumed, nitrate is reduced in the mouth by bacteria in nitrite,” Ferguson said. “The nitrite is swallowed again and then reduced to nitric oxide, which is a potent vasodilator. The nitric oxide dilates the blood vessels similar to turning on a water faucet, and allows blood to go where it needs to go.”
“Heart failure is a disease where oxygen delivery to particular tissues, especially working skeletal muscles, is impaired, decreasing the capacity to move the arms or legs and be physically active,” Poole said. “The best therapy for these patients is getting up and moving around. However, that is often difficult. Increasing the oxygen delivery to these muscles through beetroot can provide a therapeutic avenue to improve the quality of life for these patients.”
What I love most about this research is that they used real food – beet root, not the nitrate derived from beet root or some similar chemical compound cooked up in a lab.
I also think the effects of vasodilation are not just from nitric oxide but from several chemical compounds in beet root, including betaine. Betaine is known to cause dilation of the bile duct, as a reflex from the gustatory centers in the tongue. I suspect that it is also involved in the dilation of the small arteries that feed fast-twitch skeletal muscles.
I would like to see this study repeated using spinach or nitric oxide as I do not believe the same benefit can be shown. It is really all about the whole food.
Of course, I have long advocated the use of beet root for gallbladder congestion. I have been using it personally for many years. Additionally, I eat a slice of cooked beets daily. Unlike my wife, I really don’t care for the taste. I call it “dirt jello”, but I eat it anyway. After eating her slice, my wife uses the juice on her fingers as a natural rouge.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
It’s all about the food even though we chemists want to take it all apart and see how it works.
Source: Today’s Practitioner –October 24, 2014