It’s not everyone’s favourite veggie, particularly in raw form, but the humble beetroot might take some beating when it comes to reducing the risk of cardiac disease.
John Hunter Hospital cardiologist Associate Professor Aaron Sverdlov and cardiovascular researcher Associate Professor Doan Ngo, from the University of Newcastle, will shortly be recruiting for a clinical trial of beetroot juice examining its effect on exercise performance among obese people.
“There is an abundance of nitrate within beetroot juice which, in the body, is metabolised into a beneficial substance called nitric oxide,” Associate Professor Sverdlov explains.
“Nitric oxide improves blood flow in the vessels and improves the health of the lining of the vessels. We're looking to see if it can improve exercise performance in the general population who are overweight.”
Dr Ngo told ABC that the juice had also been found to improve oxygen intake into the muscles: “We're optimistic it will be an easy choice for patients to help boost their exercise capacity, as well as to improve their cardio-respiratory fitness, and therefore help in the reduction of weight,” she said.
Fifty people will be recruited into the study to consume 70 millilitres of concentrated beetroot juice each day for eight weeks. Half of the participants will get a placebo that looks and tastes identical but has the nitrate extracted.
Trial participants will ride an exercise bike while undergoing what’s called a called a VO2 max test of heart rate and oxygen consumption to measure exercise fitness. Researchers will also require a needle biopsy of the muscle.
Associate Professor Sverdlov says the juice is not a “magic bullet” but a sustainable solution to reducing obesity. “To drink a glass of juice per day we're hoping it's going to be a much easier, long-term option for people,” he said.
The study is funded by a Heart Foundation Vanguard Grant. Email Aaron.Sverdlov@newcastle.edu.au for details.