Beetroot has been a commonly used vegetable for hundreds of years. Its vibrant color and taste have led to its increased popularity on cooking shows, magazines and our menus. Its unique flavor is due to its mixture of two main flavors, i.e. sweet (due to its relatively high-sugar content) and bitterness.We now see beetroot juice available in the health aisles of supermarkets and in many health stores.
Is there any rationale to using beetroot juice as part of a holistic healthcare treatment protocol?
High Blood pressure
Hypertension (high blood pressure) causes stroke and ischemic heart disease which in turn contributes to approximately 13% of all deaths and 4.5% of all disabilities.
Beetroot juice is prescribed by some practitioners as part of a holistic medicine treatment plan to lower blood pressure. Evidenced-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) research studies have shown that a glass of beetroot juice can indeed lower systolic blood pressure.
Asystematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials looked at the effects of inorganic nitrate and beetroot supplementation on blood pressure. This CAM study examined the effects of beetroot juice on 254 healthy individuals between 2006 and 2012. The participants consumed 250 mls of beetroot juice every day for 4 weeks and were monitored for 2-weeks before and after the study. They were further assigned to two groups;
a) Beetroot juice rich in nitrates
b) Nitrate-free beetroot juice
The ‘nitrate containing beetroot juice’ group revealed an overall with a reduction in systolic blood pressure of just 4 mm Hg. In the 2 weeks after they stopped taking the juice, their blood pressure returned to their previous higher levels. These results also indicated that it is the nitrates in the beetroot juice which has a biological effect.
Beetroot contains high levels of dietary nitrate (NO3), which the body converts into biologically active nitrite (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO). In the human body, NO relaxes and dilates blood vessels. Low levels of nitric oxide (NO) are also associated risk factors for a variety of conditions such as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, smoking, diabetes mellitus and heart failure (Tousoulis 2012).
Another small-scale trial showed that beetroot juice (70 mls twice a day) has positive effects on blood pressure during subsequent exercise for older people (Kelly 2013). However, this study further suggested that it was the nitrates in the beetroot juice that was responsible for this shift.
Other trials by (Gilchrist, Free RadicBiol Med 2013), (Coles Nutritional Journal 2012) and (Bondonno, AJCN 2015) have also confirmed that it is the nitrates in the beetroot juice that provides efficacy in hypertension.
Take home message
Beetroot also has various natural nutritional supplements including potassium, folate, polyphenols, betalain, B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc. Some of these nutritional supplements are natural antioxidants which can be useful in the holistic treatment of hypertension and other ailments.
However, for those clinically diagnosed with hypertension should not be substituteanti-hypertensive drugs prescribed by medical practitioners with beetroot.
It is important to recognise that Beetroot juice rich in nitrates provides a modest reduction in systolic blood pressure and a higher dose i.e. 2 cups of beetroot juice may be useful as part of a holistic healthcare treatment plan especially if systolic blood pressure is a factor but be aware that beetroot can turn urine and stools red.