Beetroot Juice and Blood Pressure: A Study Funded By The British Heart Foundation
Ground breaking study—the first of its kind in a relevant population found that consuming nitrate-rich vegetables such as beetroot might be a safe and cost effective adjunct in blood pressure management.
A recent study published in Hypertension American Heart Association affiliated publication, was funded by the british heart foundation was conducted at the Queen Mary University in London. It showed that Beetroot juice is effective in lowering blood pressure in Hypertensive patients (i.e. people with high blood pressure). There have been many studies showing that even a single dose of beetroot is capable of lowering blood pressure in the immediate term in healthy volunteers with normal blood pressure. But this recent study is important because it shows that beetroot juice could be used safely and effectively in the management of blood pressure because it is the first study to be conducted in a clinically relevant population; i.e real blood pressure patients as opposed to healthy volunteers.
How does Beetroot lower Blood pressure?
Beetroot is a rich source of dietary nitrate. Nitrate is converted in the body to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide acts on the blood vessels to cause them to dilate (vasodilation). causes a decrease in blood pressure.
Your blood pressure is a product of the pumping effort of your heart, and the resistance provided by your blood vessels.
When the blood vessels dilate, there is less total resistance in the transport network of blood vessels that the heart needs to pump against to delivery blood and oxygen to tissues. It is this decrease in resistance that causes a decrease in blood pressure.
Design: A randomized, phase 2, double-blind, placebo-controlled study (clinical evidence level 1b).
Method: 68 patients were randomly split between two groups. One group received daily dietary supplementation of nitrate (in the form of 250L beetroot juice) for 4 weeks. The other group received 250mL of placebo nitrate-free beetroot juice. Patients were aged between 18-85 years and all had high blood pressure.
The study found that daily supplementation with beetroot juice was associated with reduction in blood pressure (by about 7 points [7mmHg]. There was no evidence of a reduction in the effectiveness of beetroot juice on blood pressure reduction over the 4 week study period. The study also indicated that endothelial function improved by 20% and arterial stiffness was reduced after the beetroot supplementation; but found no change in the placebo group. Beetroot juice supplementation caused no adverse side effects.
The study shows “the first evidence of durable BP reduction with dietary nitrate supplementation in a relevant patient group”- (remember we said earlier that many studies have shown the beneficial effects of beetroot on blood pressure regulation but these have been conducted in healthy people with normal blood pressure).
The study concluded that “a role for dietary nitrate as an affordable, readily-available, adjunctive treatment in the management of patients with hypertension”. In the research box above, we see that this is a well designed study with a high level of clinical evidence. For this level of evidence, the recommendation is that clinicians change practice to include study findings. It follows, that recommending beetroot juice as part of blood pressure management is an evidence based, best practice approach.
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Kapil, V., Khambata, R., Robertson, A., Caulfield, M. and Ahluwalia, A. (2014). Dietary Nitrate Provides Sustained Blood Pressure Lowering in Hypertensive Patients: A Randomized, Phase 2, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Hypertension, 65(2), pp.320-327.