Beetroot Juice Linked to Health Improvements in COPD Patients

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A recent study found that beetroot juice reduced blood pressure and helped the cardiovascular system.

Is beetroot juice the magic elixir for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients?

According to research published in the European Respiratory Journal, patients with COPD who took a 12-week course of daily beetroot juice experienced lower blood pressure and could walk farther in six minutes than those who went without.

Patients who suffer from COPD tend to have less oxygen in the first place; the illness is a severe lung condition affecting roughly 400 million people worldwide. It is characterized by shortness of breath, persistent, chesty coughs, frequent chest infections, and persistent wheezing. According to the study’s research team, COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide.

The study was conducted by a research team at the Imperial College London in the United Kingdom. The team looked at 81 patients with COPD treated at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London between October 2020 and August 2021. The patients had a baseline blood pressure of at least 130 mmHg. Study participants were given either 70 milliliters of concentrated beetroot juice containing 400 milligrams of nitrate daily for 12 weeks or a placebo supplement over the same period. Patients were asked to keep their diets the same and to remain on any of their prescription medications.

The research team found that patients who received the beetroot juice supplement experienced an average reduction in systolic blood pressure of 4.5 mmHg compared to those prescribed the placebo. Additionally, the patients who received the beetroot juice supplement could walk, on average, almost 33 yards (30 meters) farther in six minutes than those who received the placebo.

No serious side effects were reported during the study, though five participants reported urine discoloration. Two participants withdrew from the study, finding the taste of beetroot juice “unpalatable,” according to the study.

Why Nitrate Helps the Lungs

Patients with COPD don’t have problems getting air into their lungs as much as they do getting air out, Dr. Marilyn Moy of the VA Boston Healthcare System, who also works as an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told Harvard Health Publishing. Inhaled air gets trapped within the lungs, and the oxygen has nowhere to go, causing breathlessness in COPD patients, Dr. Moy explained in the article.

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The Imperial College London research team theorized that nitrate-rich beetroot juice could increase nitric oxide levels available in the bloodstream. Nitric oxide helps release hormones, including human growth hormone and insulin. It also widens and relaxes blood vessels, meaning less oxygen is required for the body to do the same amount of work.

A June 2022 study published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine and Hygiene supports the recent research, noting that nitric oxide supplements can improve heart health and enhance exercise performance. The 2022 study mentions previous research confirming the efficacy of beetroot juice as a way to increase nitrite levels in the plasma, which in turn helps the blood carry more oxygen. 

Will It Help Prevent Cardiovascular Events?

Although COPD affects the lungs, it is sometimes considered a cardiovascular disease. The heart has to work extra hard because COPD prevents enough oxygen from entering the bloodstream. The additional stress on the heart can aggravate it over time, leading to heart failure.

However, according to the research team, beetroot juice could be a go-to supplement to help COPD patients avoid cardiovascular problems.

“The fall in [blood pressure] observed in this study is sufficient to impact the primary and secondary prevention of [cardiovascular] events in people with COPD,” the team wrote.

The effect of beetroot juice on heart health is likely linked to the dilation of blood vessels, which reduces the blood pressure and stiffness of arteries, researchers wrote. The recent findings are backed by the Journal of Preventive Medicine and Hygiene study, which adds that reduced arterial stiffness improves blood flow to the carotid arteries, supplying blood to the brain, face, and neck.

The researchers noted that while some patients may be unable to tolerate blood pressure medications, beetroot juice could serve as an alternative for COPD patients.

“Beetroot juice that is high in nitrates is well tolerated and has a good safety record,” the team wrote.

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