A Beetroot a Day Keeps Hypertension at Bay?

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Following your five-a-day rule? Have you included beetroot? It appears beetroot may help lower blood pressure.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry showed that eating healthy amounts of nitrate-rich vegetables – such as a bowl of lettuce, or two beetroot – had a positive effect on blood pressure in the patients for 24 hours. Patients given this level of nitrate in their diet had an average 11.2 mmHg drop in their blood pressure levels from baseline

The researchers, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), looked at the effect nitrate consumption had blood pressure in rats, before confirming their findings in a small study in 15 patients with high blood pressure. The study is published today in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.

Amrita Ahluwalia, Professor of Vascular Pharmacology at the William Harvey Research Institute, part of Queen Mary, who led the research, said the finding was of significance for people living with hypertension.

“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.”

The research was funded by the British Heart Foundation. The charity’s medical director, Professor Peter Weissberg says that more studies should be done to look at the benefits of nitrate-rich foods. “This promising study shows that it may be possible to reduce high blood pressure by eating more foods that contain large quantities of nitrates, such as green vegetables and beetroot. It supports current advice that we should all be eating plenty of green veg. But we need larger studies in patients to determine if nitrate-rich vegetables are effective at lowering blood pressure over the long term.”

Researchers say nitrate produces another chemical in the body called nitrite, and in turn, nitric oxide that is said to open up blood vessels and reduce the pressure, the resistance to flow.

Alas: a beetroot a day might just help keep hypertension at bay.

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