One More Reason to Eat Your Beets…
By Khalid Sheikh, MD, MBA // April 20, 2013
Dietary Nitrates Boon To Healthy Blood Pressure
BREVARD COUNTY–Your mother told you to eat your vegetables. You resisted, and if you are like me, you especially hated beets. Now a study from the London School of Medicine and Dentistry provides strong evidence that many vegetables and especially beets are potent ways to naturally lower blood pressure. In the study, reported in the April 15 issue of the medical journal, Hypertension, researchers found in both an animal model of hypertension as well as in patients with high blood pressure who were not taking medications to treat hypertension, consuming small quantities of beet juice was highly effective in lowering blood pressure.
Nitrates Lower Blood Pressure
When subjects with hypertension were given only 250 ml. (8 ounces) of beetroot juice, systolic blood pressure dropped on average by 11 mmHg over a 3-6 hour period and even after 24 hours, blood pressure remained 7 mmHg lower than at baseline. Diastolic blood pressure was also reduced by almost 10 mmHg within the first 6 hours after drinking the beet juice. These levels of blood pressure reduction are equivalent to what one can expect with the best prescription blood pressure medications.
Beets, along with most fruits and vegetables are high in the content of nitrates (NO2). These chemicals are converted by the bacteria that naturally flourish in our intestine into nitrites (NO3). When absorbed into the bloodstream after digestion, nitrites are among the most potent natural blood pressure lowering agents known. Nitrites have long been known to lower blood pressure in normal individuals, but this study is the first to show a significant and sustained blood pressure lowering effect of nitrites in patients who already have hypertension.
Eating Fruits And Vegetables Lowers BP, Reduces Risk Of Heart Disease
Hypertension is the condition in which our blood vessels stiffen, or develop arteriosclerosis. Untreated, this can lead to an increased risk of strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure and aortic aneurysms. Over 100 million Americans have hypertension, and its prevalence increases with age. One reason for this may be that natural nitric oxide production within blood vessels diminishes with age. By replenishing the diminishing amount of nitric oxide naturally through consumption of fruits and vegetables, it may be possible to ward off or more easily treat hypertension.
Two commonly used medications directly affect the amount of circulating nitric oxide. The heart medication nitroglycerin temporarily dilates blood vessels, especially those inside the heart to relieve angina. Its effects are typically short lived, but it often causes a drop in blood pressure. Likewise, the commonly used medications for treating male erectile dysfunction; Viagra, Cialis and Levitra also increase nitric oxide at the level of the penile blood vessels, promoting them to relax and dilate, thus facilitating an erection.
There is no evidence that beets and vegetables can treat angina or erectile dysfunction (but there is no evidence that they cannot either). Still, for the purposes of naturally lowering your blood pressure and reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke, do what your mother told you, eat your vegetables, and especially your beets. In fact, based upon these studies, instead of focusing on having our children eat their beets, maybe the focus should be on making ourselves and our parents eat their beets!
For more information, get my book Don’t Let Your Heart Attack!, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Sheikh, a member of Health First Physicians Group, directs a cardiology practice specializing in lipid management and cardiovascular disease prevention, treatment and reversal in Cocoa Beach, Florida. He was a Professor of Cardiology at Duke University before entering private practice, and is currently on the clinical faculty at the University of Central Florida College Of Medicine. Dr. Sheikh, who was recognized by the Consumers’ Research Council of America as one of America’s Top Cardiologists, is board certified in both Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases, and is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology. He is also a certified clinical lipid specialist, board certified in adult echocardiography and has completed level I training in cardiac CT imaging. He has served as the principal investigator in over 100 national and international clinical research trials, and authored over 150 scientific abstracts, peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and subject reviews.
For more information about Don’t Let Your Heart Attack and Dr. Sheikh’s practice go to SheikhHeartCare.com