Drinking beetroot juice every day could help to lower blood pressure, say researchers.
They found a dose of eight ounces – around one cup (240ml) – may help people with high blood pressure, cutting their readings by about 7 per cent.
Tests suggest the effect is produced by beetroot’s naturally high levels of nitrate.
High concentrations of nitrate are also found in celery, cabbage and other leafy green vehetables such as spinach and some lettuce.
Eating high-nitrate foods triggers a series of chemical reactions in the blood, which can increase oxygen in areas of the body which are specifically lacking supply.
The beetroot juice used in the study contained about 0.2g of dietary nitrate, levels found in large bowl of lettuce or 2 beetroots.
Amrita Ahluwalia, lead author of the study and a professor of vascular pharmacology at The Barts and The London Medical School, said: ‘We were surprised by how little nitrate was needed to see such a large effect.’
‘Our hope is that increasing one’s intake of vegetables with a high dietary nitrate content, such as green leafy vegetables or beetroot, might be a lifestyle approach that one could easily employ to improve cardiovascular health.’
Beetroot juice id found in most health food shops and usually costs around £2 per bottle.
An estimated 16 million people in the UK have high blood pressure, including a third who do not know they have it, and it is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
Changes in lifestyle, such as cutting down salt and alcohol and taking more exercise, may control blood pressure and there are a number of drug treatments available. A high blood pressure reading is one that exceeds 140/90 mm Hg. The first figure, the systolic pressure, corresponds to the ‘surge’ that occurs with each heart beat.
The latest study recruited eight women and seven men with systolic pressure between 140 and 159 mm Hg who were not taking blood pressure drugs.
The participants drank 250ml of beetroot juice or water containing a low amount of nitrate, and had their blood pressure monitored for 24 hours, says a report in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.
Compared with those drinking water, people having beetroot juice cut their systolic pressure by about 10 mm Hg.
The effect was most pronounced three to six hours after drinking the juice but still present even 24 hours later.
Previous research has shown beetroot increases stamina, and can boost blood supply to vital areas of the brain.
Jenny Hope, Medical Correspondent - Daily Mail 16th April 2013