By: Steven Nissen, MD
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People like simple, straightforward health advice: An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Starve a fever; feed a cold. So it’s easy to get on the health food bandwagon when a study finding may offer a simple, natural solution for high blood pressure: Drink a cup of beet root juice each day.
Beet root juice nutrition
According to the study, published in April by the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, blood pressure decreased about 10 mm Hg in high blood pressure patients who drank a cup of beet root juice daily. The reason given: Beet root juice contains dietary nitrate, which may help relax blood vessel walls and improve blood flow.
A truly definitive study?
However there are some problems with this study:
- It involved only 15 people (eight women and seven men who had a systolic blood pressure between 140 to 159 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). (They did not have other medical complications and were not taking blood pressure medication).
- Study participants only had their blood pressure monitored over 24 hours after drinking 250 mL of beet root juice or water containing a low amount of nitrate.
That isn’t a large enough sample size nor is one day a long enough duration of lowered blood pressure to be considered a truly definitive study in my opinion.
Also, while dietary nitrate, found in beet root juice, may reduce blood pressure, the result is quite temporary. Blood pressure reduction from nitrates is simply not sustained, as confirmed in studies over many years. The effect disappears in a few days.
What else you should be eating
I do encourage my patients to eat nutrient-rich foods like vegetables and fruits as part of a broader plan to lower their high blood pressure.
Beets are good for you – they are rich in folate, potassium, vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants. They are just not a solution in themselves. I join researchers in encouraging you to eat more green leafy vegetables as part of a broader lifestyle approach – which ultimately will improve your cardiovascular health.
While a cup of beet root juice a day may not be a bad idea, I would never say it could keep the heart doctor away.