A study has found that blood flow to the brain increases after consuming beetroot juice. There are some studies demonstrating that consuming beet juice can reduce blood pressure, but the researchers wished to show that blood flow to the brain is also increased with beetroot juice consumption.
Blood flow to the brain is known as perfusion. There are brain areas that become inadequately perfused as an individual gets older, and that’s considered to be linked to poor cognition and dementia.
High nitrate concentrations are found in beetroot, and nitrate is turned into nitrite by the mouth’s good bacteria when high-nitrate foods are consumed. Studies have determined that nitrites can help in opening up the body’s blood vessels, which increases blood flow and oxygen, especially in areas that are oxygen deficient.
For the study, researchers examined how dietary nitrates impacted 14 individuals 70 years and older over 4 days.
On the 1st day, a health status report was completed in the laboratory following a 10-hour fast and either a low-nitrate or high-nitrate breakfast was consumed. The high-nitrate breakfast incorporated 16 oz. of beetroot juice. The participants then went home taking lunch, dinner, and snacks relevant to their allocated diets.
The following day, after an additional 10-hour fast, the participants returned to the laboratory, where they consumed their allocated breakfasts. An MRI was taken an hour after breakfast recording the blood flow in the brain of each participant. Blood tests taken before and after breakfast validated the body’s nitrite levels.
For the 3rd and 4th days, the diets were swapped and the procedure was repeated for each participant.
The MRIs revealed increased blood flow to the frontal lobes’ white matter after consuming a high-nitrate diet. These are the parts of the brain typically linked to degeneration that result in dementia as well as other cognitive disorders.
According to another study of individuals between the ages of 70 and 80, beetroot juice consumption produces a mouth-bacteria mix linked to healthier blood vessels as well as improved brain function.
Beetroot is full of inorganic nitrate that’s turned into nitric oxide by oral bacteria. Nitric oxide helps in regulating blood vessels and neurotransmission.
Older individuals tend to have a reduced production of nitric oxide, which is linked to poorer cognitive and vascular health.
In the study, 26 healthy older individuals participated in two 10-day supplementation periods: 1 supplementing with beetroot juice and another supplementing with placebo juice free of nitrates, which was consumed twice daily.
The results revealed higher bacteria levels linked to good cognitive and vascular health and lower bacteria levels associated with inflammation and disease. Systolic blood pressure decreased on average by 5 points (mmHg) after consuming the beetroot juice.
The results indicate that adding foods that are rich in nitrate such as beetroot to the diet for just 10 days can change the oral microbiome significantly for the better.
Maintaining a healthy oral microbiome could help in delaying the negative cognitive and vascular changes linked to aging.
Tests were carried out to identify oral bacteria clusters that often thrive together in the same conditions. Nitrate supplementation reduced a cluster known as Prevotella-Veillonella that’s been linked to inflammation, as well as reduced Clostridium difficile, a cluster that can infect the bowel and result in diarrhea.
Drinking beetroot juice before exercising improves performance
According to another study, consuming a beetroot juice supplement before exercising helps the brains of older individuals perform more effectively, reflecting the functions of a younger brain.
Other research has found that exercise has a positive impact on the brain. However, in this study of older individuals with high blood pressure, it was shown that in comparison to exercise on its own, including a beetroot juice supplement with exercise contributed to brain connectivity that is similar to what is seen in younger individuals.
This study examined the combined effects of beetroot juice and exercise on the brain’s motor cortex function and the secondary connections between the insula and motor cortex, which support mobility.
The study consisted of 26 individuals 55 years of age and older who didn’t exercise, had hypertension, and took a maximum of 2 medications for hypertension. They consumed a beetroot juice supplement 1 hour prior to a 50-minute moderately intense treadmill walk 3 times each week for 6 weeks. Half the individuals were given a supplement that contained 560 mg of nitrate, and the other participants were given a placebo supplement with hardly any nitrate.
Beetroot contains a high dietary nitrate level, which is changed into nitrite and then into nitric oxide when consumed. Blood flow is increased with nitric oxide and other research has found it improves exercise performance in individuals of various ages.
Nitric oxide is a potent molecule that travels to the parts of the body that need oxygen, and the brain needs a lot of oxygen. The somatomotor cortex of the brain, which processes muscle information, sorts the signals coming in from the body when exercising. The somatomotor cortex is strengthened with exercise.
The exercise and beetroot juice combination provides a lot more oxygen to the brain which creates the perfect environment for the somatomotor cortex to be strengthened. An analysis after exercising established that, even though both groups had similar nitrite and nitrate levels in the blood prior to consuming the juice, the group consuming the beetroot juice had much higher nitrite and nitrate levels compared to the placebo group after exercising.
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