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Beetroot Juice Benefits Patients With Heart Failure
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Beetroot Juice Benefits Patients With Heart Failure

Muscle power improves in patients with heart failure when they adopt a diet high in nitrates - found in abundance in beetroot juice - a new study shows.

Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, publishing in the journal ‘Circulation: Heart Failure,’ wanted to know if patients with heart failure could get the kind of benefits athletes find in beet juice.

The study builds on the team’s previous work that suggests using dietary nitrates improves muscle performance in the world of elite sport.

Nitrates are the active ingredient in beet juice, as well as spinach and other leafy vegetables, including arugula and celery.

During exercise, nitrates are converted into nitric oxide, with various beneficial effects on blood pressure and cardiovascular health. The benefits are most commonly found during aerobic exercise - that is, when breathing is increased to bring more oxygen into the body, for example, in walking, cycling or swimming.

Researchers hypothesized that heart failure patients may benefit in similar ways to athletes, since heart failure is the gradual loss of pumping capacity. When the heart is weak, fatigue and shortness of breath follow, making everyday activity difficult.

Would something as simple as a nitrate supplement or drink bring improvements?

“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,” says senior study author Dr. Linda R. Peterson, associate professor of medicine.

“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,” Peterson adds.

Working with a small study group of only nine patients, the research team gave each of them a beet juice treatment.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading global cause of death, attributable to 17.3 million deaths per year.

Two hours after drinking the juice, patients who consumed the beet juice containing nitrates showed a 13% increase in power in muscles that extend the knee, with the most benefit when they moved at greatest speed.

The size of the benefit was estimated by researchers by comparing the improvement in muscle power in an exercise program.

Andrew R. Coggan, PhD, assistant professor of radiology , says:

“I have compared the beet-juice effect to Popeye eating his spinach. The magnitude of this improvement is comparable to that seen in heart failure patients who have done 2-3 months of resistance training.”

“One problem in aging is the muscles get weaker, slower and less powerful. Beyond a certain age, people lose 1% per year of their muscle function,” says Coggan. “If we can boost muscle power that could provide a significant benefit to older individuals.”

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