(Naturalhealth365) New research is highlighting a remarkable array of beet juice benefits – among them, the ability to enhance exercise capability and overall performance in people with heart failure issues.
Heart failure – characterized by the heart’s inability to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to meet the body’s needs – is one of the most common complications of heart disease. Currently affecting over 5.7 million Americans, heart failure can severely limit patients’ ability to be physical active – thereby leading to decreased mobility, reduced independence, and a dramatically lower quality of life.
But, an ordinary root vegetable may have the potential to help alleviate this cycle of ill health.
Beet juice to the rescue: Nitric oxide is the key to better cardiovascular health
Unsurprisingly, researchers have found that skeletal muscle strength, velocity and power can be dramatically reduced in patients with heart failure.
The reason: failing cardiac muscle produces increased amounts of reactive oxygen species, thereby decreasing the availability of a valuable substance, nitric oxide. This, in turn, affects the ability of the heart muscle to contract.
In fact, roughly 50 percent of all heart failure patients have a decreased “ejection fraction,” a measure of the heart’s ability to circulate nutrient-rich blood throughout the body. Labored breathing, ‘unexplained’ swelling in the hands or feet, fatigue, constipation, diminished peak oxygen uptake and exercise difficulty can all be signs of a lowered ejection fraction.
Of course, it almost goes without saying, these symptoms carry serious health implications and should not be ignored.
Among patients with heart failure, research has shown that decreases in peak oxygen uptake are indicative of a higher chance of premature death. But, a new study involving dietary nitrate from beets showed that beet extracts can impart some extraordinary benefits to heart failure patients.
Beetroot juice NEWS: What did the latest study reveal?
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted at Indiana University and published in Journal of Cardiac Failure, researchers wanted to find out if ingestion of dietary nitrate from beet juice could improve muscle function in patients with heart failure.
(Earlier studies had strongly supported the ability of beetroot juice to enhance the athletic performances of healthy runners and cyclists. This study, however, was the first to examine the effects of beet supplementation on patients with heart failure).
The patients – all of whom had ejection fractions of 45 percent or lower – were divided into two groups, with one group given beet juice containing 11.2 millimoles of nitrate and the other group given a placebo.
Two hours later, the participants’ muscle function was assessed, along with their nitric oxide levels.
The team found that the dietary nitrates caused a marked increase in nitric oxide levels, which was reflected in increases in breath nitric oxide ranging from 35 to 50 percent.
Beetroot juice, the researchers noted, “enhanced exercise capacity” and caused significant improvements in exercise duration, peak power and peak oxygen uptake. The nitrate group also experienced “considerable” improvements in peak knee extensor power and velocity (a sign of leg strength) – all without any adverse effects.
The researchers concluded that “supplementation with beetroot extracts could be a valuable addition to treatment for exercise intolerance among heart failure patients with reduced ejection fraction” – and called for further study to fully explore the implications.
How does beetroot promote the bioavailability of nitric oxide and help the heart?
Dietary nitrate – which is found in abundant quantities in beets and other vegetables – is reduced to nitrite when ingested, courtesy of anaerobic bacteria in the mouth. Next, acidic conditions in the stomach or other tissues further reduce the nitrite to desirable nitric oxide – which relaxes and dilates blood vessels, lowering blood pressure and improving muscle contractile function.
But aren’t nitrates “bad?”
The short answer is: no, not under these circumstances. Nitrates are only potentially harmful when exposed to high heat in the presence of amino acids. They can then form nitrosamines – many of which are potent carcinogens.
Although nitrates found in processed lunch meats have been linked to cancer, the dietary nitrates in beets pose no danger.
Beets are storehouses of disease-fighting antioxidants, vitamins and minerals
The brilliant ruby-red coloration of beets is an eye-catching tip-off that this root vegetable is loaded with carotenes and betalains, natural antioxidant pigments that fight oxidative damage and promote health.
Beets and beet juice are also high in vitamin C, vitamin E, and folate, along with the minerals potassium and manganese. Plus, in its liquid form, this is an easy-to-absorb source of great nutrition.
The healthy dietary fiber in beets gives them cancer-fighting effects, while also slowing the absorption of glucose. (Studies have even shown that beets can improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar in diabetics).
Beets are also packed with glutathione, a powerful natural antioxidant and detoxifier that helps to boost the immune system and neutralize heavy metals and carcinogens.
When eating beets, it is best to enjoy them uncooked or juiced, as the heat from cooking can deplete some of their nutrients. For those looking to enhance their athletic performance, many natural health experts recommend 70 milliliters of beet juice, taken two hours before exercise or any competitive event.
Of course, whenever possible, opt for organic beets for maximum benefit.
Beet juice nutrients are also available in powdered and liquid extracts.
(Note: you may experience a pinkish or reddish urine after consuming beets. Not to worry – this startling effect is harmless).
Of course, before supplementing with beets, you should check first with your integrative healthcare provider – especially if you have heart disease, heart failure, kidney disease or any other medical condition.
In reality, throughout the ages, natural healers and herbalists have employed beets to treat digestive and cardiovascular conditions. Now, modern biochemical research is confirming the power of this ‘ancient remedy’ – and the ability of beets to improve exercise capacity and quality of life for those with heart failure.
Sources for this article include:
Food & Nutrition
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