The natural flora on our tongue (lingual bacteria) is essential for the athletic performance-enhancing effect of the nitrates in vegetables such as beetroot.
Image thanks to Marie-Claire.
How do they know it’s the nitrate that’s responsible for the beet-related boost in athletic performance? Beets have all sorts of wonderful phytonutrients. Well first, they compared beet juice to a berry juice, packed with phytonutrients, but no nitrate. Beets worked, berries didn’t. Yeah, but still I’m sure there lots of stuff unique to beets other than the nitrate.
So then they got creative. If it truly is this unbelievable nitrate to nitrite double pass through the mouth what would happen if you had them swish with an antiseptic mouthwash. Wipe out that integral population of tongue bacteria. They tried it, nitrite levels dropped, presumably eliminating the performance enhancing effect.
They even had the guys drink the beet juice and then drool for three hours. Not swallow any of their saliva. And that eliminated the beetroot effect too!
The effect of beetroot juice on the plasma concentration of nitrite and the effects of spitting versus swallowing. I told you this was a crazy story. They drank the same amount of beet juice, but by drinking and drooling, they removed that critical second pass through the mouth.
So, don’t waste your money buying beets to boost your athletic performance, unless you keep your tongue bacteria happy and swallow your spit.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by MaryAnn Allison.
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If you're asking yourself "what beet-related boost in athletic performance?" you may have missed the first video in this series Doping with beet juice. And if the whole "nitrate to nitrite double pass" is a mystery to you, then check out yesterday’s video. If you're thinking "wait a second, aren't nitrites the preservatives in cured meats that cause cancer?" then you're way ahead of me—stay tuned to the 14 following videos in this series and feel free in the meantime to check out the hundreds of other videos on 1000+ topics.