Beeting hypertension

New research suggests a daily dose of beetroot juice may lower blood pressure among people who most need it reduced.

Wanna-be lovers of the Roman Empire gobbled beets as an aphrodisiac. Recent research supports the root’s powers over the heart—but in a slightly different vein. In a study published in the journal Hypertension, British scientists found that a daily cup of beetroot juice significantly lowered blood pressure among patients with high blood pressure. The beetroot worked as well as drugs.

The benefits come from the inorganic nitrates in the beets, explains a story about the study. This is the first evidence of a long-lasting blood pressure reduction from dietary nitrate supplementation in a relevant patient group.

“Diseases of the heart and blood vessels – which can cause heart attacks and strokes – remain the biggest cause of death worldwide,” the study’ lead author, Professor Amrita Ahluwalia, of Queen Mary University of London, told healthgauge. “However, unlike some other serious illnesses, we are fortunate in that we can make certain lifestyle changes which dramatically improve our heart and blood vessel health. This research has proven that a daily inorganic nitrate dose can be as effective as medical intervention in reducing blood pressure and the best part is we can get it from beetroot and other leafy green vegetables.”

The double-blind, phase two clinical trial included 64 patients ages 18 to 85 years. Half of the patients were taking prescribed anti-hypertensive drugs but were failing to reach their target blood pressure. The other half had been identified as having high blood pressure but not yet been prescribed medication. For four weeks, half the subjects took a daily dose of dietary nitrate (250 ml of beetroot juice) and half took a placebo.

The blood pressure of the patients who took the beetroot dropped by an average of about 8/4 mmHg. Research has suggested that each 2mmHg increase in blood pressure increases the likelihood of death from heart disease by seven percent and stroke by 10 percent.

Dr Shannon Amoils, Senior Research Advisor at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, told“This interesting study builds on previous research by this team and finds that a daily glass of beetroot juice can lower blood pressure in people with hypertension – even those whose high blood pressure was not controlled by drug treatment.

"The possibility of using a natural product, rather than another pill, to help lower blood pressure, is very appealing," he continued. "The trial is small however, and the next step will be to see if this result can be repeated in a much larger group of people with high blood pressure and over a longer period of time.”

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