Drinking 500ml of beetroot juice a day
can significantly reduce blood pressure, UK research suggests.
The key beneficial ingredient appears
to be nitrate, which is also found in green, leafy vegetables.
The researchers found that in healthy
volunteers blood pressure was reduced within an hour of
drinking the juice.
The study, by Barts and the London School
of Medicine and the Peninsula Medical School, could suggest
a low-cost way to treat hypertension.
Previously the protective effects of
vegetable-rich diets have been attributed to their antioxidant
While it took less than an hour to note
a reduction in blood pressure in the beetroot juice tests,
it was more pronounced after three to four hours and a
degree of reduction continued to be observed for up to
24 hours, the report published on the online journal Hypertension
The researchers showed that nitrate in
the juice is converted in saliva, by bacteria on the tongue,
This nitrite-containing saliva is swallowed,
and in the acidic environment of the stomach is either
converted into nitric oxide or re-enters the circulation
The peak time of reduction in blood pressure
correlated with the appearance and peak levels of nitrite
in the circulation.
No such drop in blood pressure was recorded
in a second group of volunteers, who did not swallow their
saliva while drinking beetroot juice, or for three hours
More than 25% of the world's adult population
are hypertensive, and it has been estimated that this
figure will increase to 29% by 2025.
Hypertension causes around 50% of coronary
heart disease, and approximately 75% of strokes.
In total, cardiovascular disease kills
over 110,000 people in England every year.
Researcher Professor Amrita Ahluwalia
said: "Our research suggests that drinking beetroot juice,
or consuming other nitrate-rich vegetables, might be a
simple way to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system,
and might also be an additional approach that one could
take in the modern day battle against rising blood pressure."
Professor Graham McGregor, of the British
Hypertension Society, described the research as "interesting".
He said: "This shows that beetroot juice
lowers blood pressure in the short term in volunteers
with normal blood pressure.
"What we need now is research to see
whether it has an effect on people with high blood pressure
over a much longer period of time."
Professor McGregor said there was a growing
body of work showing that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables
had a beneficial impact on hypertension.
But he said previous research had suggested
that potassium may be the key mineral.
Victoria Taylor, of the British Heart
Foundation, said: "Whilst beetroot juice was used in this
study, it is unlikely that people will be able to - or
wish to - consume it in the quantities used in the research.
"Although we know that eating a diet
rich in fruit and vegetables as part of a well balanced
diet is beneficial to heart health, we do not know yet
whether there are certain fruits or vegetables that are
more helpful than others and so for now, people should
continue to choose a wide variety in achieving their five