Research conducted at Wake Forest University revealed the brain-boosting benefits of beet juice in older adults. In fact, a daily dose of the juice could even have the potential to combat the mental decline we experience as we age.
The study, published in the journal Nitric Oxide: Biology and Chemistry, is the first to make the connection between nitrate-rich beet juice and increased blood flow to the brain.
“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 Wake Forest University’s Translational Science Center; Fostering Independence in Aging. “There are areas in the brain that become poorly perfused as you age, and that’s believed to be associated with dementia and poor cognition.”
On day one volunteers fasted for 10 hours, completed a health status report, and then ate either a high-nitrate breakfast that included 16 ounces of beet juice or a low-nitrate breakfast. The volunteers were then given lunch, dinner and snacks that matched their assigned diets.
On day two after another 10-hour fast the volunteers had a blood test to measure their nitrate levels and were again given their assigned breakfast followed by a second blood test. One hour later brain blood flow was measured using an MRI.
On day three and four researchers flip-flopped the two group’s diets and repeated the process for each volunteer.
A high nitrate diet increases brain blood flow
The MRIs revealed that the high-nitrate diet was linked to increased blood flow to the area of the frontal lobes associated with the kind of degeneration that leads to dementia and age-related cognitive decline.
“I think these results are consistent and encouraging — that good diet consisting of a lot of fruits and vegetables can contribute to overall good health,” said Gary Miller, one of the senior investigators on the study and an associate professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science.
Besides beets celery cabbage, and some other leafy green veggies such as spinach and some lettuces are high in bran-boosting nitrates. Good bacteria in your mouth convert the nitrate in high-nitrate foods into nitrite. Nitrite in turn help open up the blood vessels in your body, increasing blood flow and oxygen levels to the areas that need it most.
Beet juice lowered elevated blood pressure
Beetroot juice has also been shown to lower elevated blood pressure and maintain healthy blood pressure levels. In a 2008 study significant decreases in blood pressure were achieved within three hours of drinking 500 milliliters (about 17 ounces) of beetroot juice. That drop was maintained for up to 24 hours after the juice was consumed.
But boosting brain function and lowering blood pressure aren’t the only two tricks beet juice has up its sleeve. This powerfully healthy drink can also help protect against cancer (especially colon cancer), cleanse the bowels, strengthen the gall bladder, increase stamina and more.
To learn more about the benefits of beetroot juice and beets, see “The Many Healthy Benefits of Beets and Beetroot Juice”
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