The benefits of beetroot juice are vast and the scientific knowledge of its effects on the body continue to grow. The newest perk to add to the list is how beet juice can help with heart disease patients whose sympathetic nervous systems kick into overdrive. Dietary nitrates are found in high amounts in this liquid gold (liquid ruby? liquid garnet?), which create this internally calming effect and could possibly be an important treatment component for patients with cardiovascular troubles.
Overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system can result in high blood pressure, heart rate and blood vessel constriction. The increased nerve activity in this bodily system has been linked to certain forms of cardiovascular disease, including heart failure. To bring this level of activity back down, researchers published a study in the journal American Journal of Physiology —Heart and Circulatory Physiology on nitrate supplementation. The study was the first of its kind on the topic.
Participants were closely examined for their blood pressure, heart rate and muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) rates while at rest and while performing a handgrip exercise. They were then given either a beetroot juice drink or a placebo and instructed to rest on their backs for a three hour period.
The researchers found that MSNA burst rates, responsible for activation of the sympathetic nervous system, were lower in those who drank beet juice versus the placebo beverage. “These results provide proof-of-concept that dietary nitrate supplementation can modulate central sympathetic outflow and suggest that the established cardiovascular benefits [of dietary nitrate] are likely to involve a neural contribution,” said the team of researchers. In other words, how the sympathetic nerve system behaves is a key component in the progression of cardiovascular diseases, and this study shows it.
The benefits of beet juice are not a new concept. Drinking some a few hours before working out can improve your endurance and performance without raising your heart rate as much, meaning your body is better utilizing the oxygen you are breathing in. Beet juice can also lower blood pressure and be an aphrodisiac (what!).
To give beet juice a try, you can buy it at the store or juice some at home. The commercially bottled stuff (that usually has a bunch of other ingredients) or supplements won’t typically get the job done. You can also step outside your morning coffee comfort zone and sip on a beet juice latte in the morning!