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Beetroot Juice: A Cheap and Tasty Way to Beat High Blood Pressure

Update Date: Apr 16, 2013 05:37 AM EDT

Why not start your mornings with a cup of beetroot juice? Scientists found that having just a cup of beetroot juice can significantly lower blood pressure.

The findings, published in the journal Hypertension, found that drinking just 8 ounces or a cup of beetroot juice lowered blood pressure by 7 percent in patients with high blood pressure, bringing some into the normal range.

The study, which involved 15 participants, found that blood pressure dropped by an average of 10mm Hg in patients with hypertension three to six hours after drinking 8oz. of beetroot juice.

Researchers believe the blood pressure-lowering effect of beetroot is caused the vegetable's naturally occurring high levels of nitrate.

Experts say the nitrate in beetroot widens blood vessels and aids in blood flow, and patients with angina use a nitrate drug to treat their symptoms. Eating nitrate-rich foods like celery, cabbage, spinach and lettuce, triggers a series of chemical reactions in the blood that can increase oxygen in areas of the body lacking supply.

The beetroot juice participants drank in the study contained about 0.2g of dietary nitrate, levels found in a large bowl of lettuce of two beetroots.

"We were surprised by how little nitrate was needed to see such a large effect," lead author Amrita Ahluwalia, a professor of vascular pharmacology at The Barts and The London Medical School in London, said in a news release.

"This study shows that compared to individuals with healthy blood pressure much less nitrate is needed to produce the kinds of decreases in blood pressure that might provide clinical benefits in people who need to lower their blood pressure," Ahluwalia explained.

However, researchers noted that they are still unsure whether the effect is long term.

"Our hope is that increasing one's intake of vegetables with a high dietary nitrate content, such as green leafy vegetables or beetroot, might be a lifestyle approach that one could easily employ to improve cardiovascular health," Ahluwalia added.

More than 77 million adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with high blood pressure.  High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart diseases and stroke.  Researchers say eating vegetables with high dietary nitrate and other nutrients may be an easy and inexpensive way to manage blood pressure.

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