|Emma McGowan NatureCity author & contributor|
In two related trials, researchers have discovered that beetroot juice and bread enriched with red or white beetroot juice may lower blood pressure—a dangerous condition that can lead to cardiovascular problems—in men with normal blood pressure.
The researchers are based at the University of Reading and their findings were published online ahead of print on March 14, 2012, in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Participants in the first trial included 18 men with normal blood pressure. The men drank either 0, 3.5, 9 or 17.5 ounces of beetroot juice and then were observed for 24 hours in a controlled environment.
The researchers noted that, after only two to three hours, the men who consumed 17.5 ounces of juice showed a 22 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure and an 18 mmHg reduction in diastolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure is the top number in a blood pressure reading and it represents the amount of force on the artery walls when the heart is beating. Diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number and represents the pressure on the arteries when the heart is at rest.
For the second trial, 14 men were given either control bread, or bread enriched with 3.5 ounces of red or white beetroot juice. The red beetroot bread resulted in a 19 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure and a 24 mmHg reduction in diastolic blood pressure. The white beetroot bread resulted in a 17 mmHg reduction in systolic pressure and a 23 mmHg reduction in diastolic pressure.
The researchers believe that the benefits seen here could be the result of the high nutrient content of beetroot. Some of the nutrients found in these colorful vegetables include vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, fiber and polyphenols. All of these have been shown in previous studies to be beneficial to cardiovascular health. They also noted that the high nitrate level of beetroots likely played a role as well.
Previous studies have shown that beetroots may also improve brain health and digestive health, as well as boost stamina and combat liver problems. An interesting element of this study is that white beetroots produced almost the same results as red beetroot, suggesting that white beetroot juice could be added to common foods in the future without much visual impact on the consumer.