Researchers who carried out a placebo-controlled trial conclude that one glass of beetroot juice each day is sufficient to significantly reduce high blood pressure in patients with the condition.
The British Hear Foundation funded the trial which was carried out at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) in the United Kingdom. Senior research advisor Dr Shannon Amoils stated that the study builds on previous research by the same team and deduces that one glass of beetroot juice consumed each day can reduce blood pressure in patients with hypertension, as well as those whose high blood pressure was not controlled by drug treatment.
The journal Hypertension published the researchers’ findings.
Beetroot is a prime source of high levels of inorganic nitrate. Lettuce, cabbage and other leafy vegetables also contain high levels of the compound, which they take from the soil through their roots.
Inorganic nitrate converts to nitric oxide in the human body, and this dilates and relaxes blood vessels.
For the trial, 64 patients aged between 18 and 85 were recruited. 50% of the patients were taking prescribed medication for high blood pressure but were unsuccessful in reaching their target blood pressure. The remaining 50% were diagnosed with high blood pressure but were not yet taking medication for the condition.
The patients were assigned to one of two groups, randomly. One group drank one glass (250ml) daily of beetroot juice, while the other group had the same except for the fact that their beetroot juice was nitrate-free (the placebo).
This continued everyday for four weeks. The patients were also monitored for 2 weeks before and after the trial, meaning the total trial period was 8 weeks.
Neither the patients nor the administering clinicians knew whether the juice they were being given was the active supplement or the placebo.
The patients taking the active supplement experienced a drop in blood pressure of 8/4 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) during the 4 weeks they were consuming the juice. For many patients, that reduction brought their blood pressure back within normal range. During the 2 weeks after they stopped consuming the juice, their blood pressure returned to their previous high levels.
Another effect was that the patients taking the active supplement experienced an approximately 20% improvement in blood vessel dilation capacity, and the stiffness of their arteries reduced by 10%. These changes are linked to reduced risk of heart disease.
The placebo group did not experience any changes in blood vessel function, high blood pressure or artery stiffness during the duration of the study.
Natural products that lower blood pressure are “more appealing” than pills as this is something that can easily be worked into patients’ daily lives for a positive benefit.
Professor Ahluwalia encourages those looking to up their daily nitrate intake not to boil vegetables because nitrates dissolve in water. A better option would be to steam, drink juice or roast the vegetable.
The next step is to carry out a larger study over a longer period of time with more people, and hopefully replicate the findings.
High blood pressure is either the primary cause of or plays a part in 1,000 American deaths each year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).