Hearts Shouldn’t Skip a Beet

Hearts Shouldn’t Skip a Beet
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The nitrate in vegetables, which the body can turn into the vasodilator nitric oxide, may help explain the role dark green leafy vegetables play in the prevention and treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart disease.

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Those of you paying close attention to this discussion of how beets can boost athletic performance may have noticed a term that sounded familiar—nitric oxide, which I talked about before in The Power of NO. It’s a vasodilator; helps open up blood flow. That’s how those nitroglycerine pills work when someone’s having angina. So if that’s how beets work, no wonder it lowers blood pressure as well.

Increasing athletic performance is nice and all, but if high-nitrate vegetables can do that, then these novel findings may have several clinical implications. A dietary therapy that lowers blood pressure and increases exercise tolerance may obviate the use of expensive drugs with potentially deleterious side effects. Look at this: drink some beet juice, and look what happens to your blood pressure within hours—and still working a day later!

We’ve known that fruits and vegetables reduce heart disease risk—particularly dark green leafy vegetables. We just haven’t exactly been sure why. These findings suggest that dietary nitrate underlies the beneficial effects of a vegetable-rich diet, and highlights the potential of a natural, low-cost approach for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. That’s why this prescription was published in an American Heart Association Journal.

Two cups of beet juice is a lot of nitrate, though. Although the magnitude of the improvement in performance after consumption of the natural vegetable juice beverage might seem surprising, it’s important to note that the acute dose of nitrate used in the present study (a half liter) is 4–12 times greater than the typical daily dietary nitrate intake in the United States. Yeah, but if it’s found in vegetables, how much is that really saying?

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Catherine Murray / 123rf

Those of you paying close attention to this discussion of how beets can boost athletic performance may have noticed a term that sounded familiar—nitric oxide, which I talked about before in The Power of NO. It’s a vasodilator; helps open up blood flow. That’s how those nitroglycerine pills work when someone’s having angina. So if that’s how beets work, no wonder it lowers blood pressure as well.

Increasing athletic performance is nice and all, but if high-nitrate vegetables can do that, then these novel findings may have several clinical implications. A dietary therapy that lowers blood pressure and increases exercise tolerance may obviate the use of expensive drugs with potentially deleterious side effects. Look at this: drink some beet juice, and look what happens to your blood pressure within hours—and still working a day later!

We’ve known that fruits and vegetables reduce heart disease risk—particularly dark green leafy vegetables. We just haven’t exactly been sure why. These findings suggest that dietary nitrate underlies the beneficial effects of a vegetable-rich diet, and highlights the potential of a natural, low-cost approach for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. That’s why this prescription was published in an American Heart Association Journal.

Two cups of beet juice is a lot of nitrate, though. Although the magnitude of the improvement in performance after consumption of the natural vegetable juice beverage might seem surprising, it’s important to note that the acute dose of nitrate used in the present study (a half liter) is 4–12 times greater than the typical daily dietary nitrate intake in the United States. Yeah, but if it’s found in vegetables, how much is that really saying?

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Catherine Murray / 123rf

Doctor's Note

Check out The Power of NO video I reference. And the athletic performance-enhancing effect of beets story begins with Doping With Beet Juice, is explained further in Priming the Proton Pump, and is confirmed in Out of the Lab Onto the Track. Also check out my other videos on blood pressure, my other videos on greens, and my other videos on heart disease.

For more context, also see my associated blog post: Using Greens to Improve Athletic Performance.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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