Beet juice, with its high concentration of nitrates, may help boost muscle strength among heart patients, a small study has found.
Nitrates are processed into nitric oxide by the body, which helps relax blood vessels and improve metabolism. Dietary nitrate, found in beets and leafy greens like spinach, has been shown to boost muscle performance in elite athletes.
Based on studies of elite athletes, especially cyclists who use beet juice to boost performance, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis tested the benefits of dietary nitrate among nine people with heart failure, a condition that causes the heart to gradually lose its pumping power.
The patients were given concentrated beet juice. Two hours later, they showed a 13 percent power increase in muscles that extend the knee. The researchers also found the greatest benefit when the muscles performed fast, powerful actions. Longer tests measuring muscle fatigue however, showed no performance improvement, according to the study published recently in Circulation: Heart Failure.
One to two weeks either before or after the nitrate supplement, the same nine patients were given a control drink of beet juice that had the nitrate removed, to serve as a baseline for muscle strength in each individual.
“It’s a small study, but we see robust changes in muscle power about two hours after patients drink the beet juice,” senior study author Dr. Linda R. Peterson, an associate professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine, said in a university news release. “A lot of the activities of daily living are power-based: getting out of a chair, lifting groceries, climbing stairs. And they have a major impact on quality of life. We want to help make people more powerful because power is such an important predictor of how well people do, whether they have heart failure, cancer or other conditions. In general, physically more powerful people live longer.”
SOURCE: Washington University in St. Louis, news release, Sept. 16, 2015