A 12-week course of daily beetroot juice supplementation for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) reduced blood pressure and improved the walking ability of patients in six minutes, as reported in a study published today in the European Respiratory Journal.
COPD is a severe lung disease affecting approximately 400 million people worldwide. It causes breathing difficulties and significantly limits physical activity. It also increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The new study tested a concentrated beetroot juice supplement with high nitrate content compared to a beetroot juice placebo that looked and tasted the same but without nitrate.
The study was conducted by researchers from Imperial College London, UK, led by Professor Nicholas Hopkinson. He said, „There is some suggestion that beetroot juice could be used as a source of nitrate supplementation in athletes to improve their performance, as well as some short-term studies looking at blood pressure. Higher levels of nitrate in the blood can increase the availability of nitric oxide, a chemical that helps relax blood vessels. It also increases muscle efficiency, meaning they require less oxygen to perform the same amount of work.“
81 people with COPD who were being treated at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, UK, and had a systolic blood pressure of more than 130 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) participated in the new study. The participants were randomly assigned to a 12-week course of nitrate-rich beetroot supplement (70 milliliters of concentrated beetroot juice with 400 milligrams of nitrate once daily) or the placebo.
Researchers found that those taking the nitrate-rich supplement experienced an average reduction of 4.5 mmHg in systolic blood pressure compared to those taking the placebo. Taking the nitrate-rich beetroot juice also led to an average increase in walking distance of around 30 meters in six minutes.
„At the end of the study, we found that the blood pressure of people taking the nitrate-rich beetroot juice drink was lower, and their blood vessels became less stiff. The juice also increased the distance people with COPD could cover in six minutes compared to the placebo. This is one of the longest studies in this area so far. The results are very promising but need to be confirmed in larger, longer-term studies.“
– Professor Nicholas Hopkinson, Imperial College London, UK
Professor Apostolos Bossios from the Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, who is the head of the Assembly on Respiratory Diseases of the European Respiratory Society, and was not involved in the research, said, „COPD cannot be cured, so there is an urgent need to help patients live as well as possible with the disease and reduce their risk of cardiovascular diseases.“
„The patients participating in this study generally found the beetroot juice supplement to be acceptable and saw benefits in terms of their blood pressure and mobility. To confirm whether this is the case, patients need to be studied for a longer period.“
„Beetroot juice has been widely consumed and tested in other studies, so it has the potential to be a safe treatment for people with COPD.“
European Respiratory Society