Writing in Nitric Oxide: Biology and Chemistry, scientists at Wake Forest University in the US decided to explore the potential impact that beetroot juice could have on brain health.
“There have been several very high-profile studies showing that drinking beet juice can lower blood pressure, but we wanted to show that drinking beet juice also increases perfusion, or blood flow, to the brain,” said Daniel Kim-Shapiro, director of the Translational Science Center at Wake Forest.
Improved blood flow to the brain is relevant to cognitive health and ageing because poorer blood flow in the brain among the elderly is believed to be linked to the onset of dementia.
Beetroot is a high-nitrate food and because in the body nitrate turns to nitrite, which has been found to help open blood vessels and improve blood flow, the scientists decided to study its impact on blood flow to the brain.
Methodology and results
To do so they took a group of 14 adults aged 70 or over and for two days and fed half of them a high nitrate breakfast that included 16 ounces of beetroot juice while the other half ate a low nitrate breakfast. After that an MRI scan was taken before the two groups swapped breakfasts for two days before having another scan.
The MRI scans revealed that blood flow to the white matter of the frontal lobes, an area commonly associated with dementia, was higher among those who had just had the high nitrate breakfast.
On the back of recent research into the heart and stamina benefits of beetroot juice, it has begun to see its share of the market grow. In the UK, the supermarket Waitrose revealed last month that sales had grown 82 per cent over the past year, while bunched and prepared beetroot sales were also up 15 and 22 per cent respectively.
The scientists at Wake Forest University are looking to exploit the market potential of beetroot juice and are currently working with a company to reduce the bitterness of the drink, with the aim of developing a new beetroot beverage. The university is currently looking into ways of marketing the drink.
Source: Nitric Oxide: Biology and Chemistry
Available online 15 October 2010
Acute effect of a high nitrate diet on brain perfusion in older adults
Authors: T. D. Presley, A.R. Morgan, E. Bechtold, W. Clodfelter, R.W. Dove, J.M. Jennings, R. A. Kraft, S.B. King, P.J. Laurienti, W.J. Rejeski, J.H. Burdette, D.B. Kim-Shapiro and G.D. Miller