Beetroot juice lowers blood pressure for people with COPD

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Glass of beetroot juice

Beetroot juice supplement lowers blood pressure and improves exercise capacity in people with COPD finds new research.

An Imperial led study has found taking a daily beetroot juice supplement lowered blood pressure and improved how far patients could walk in six minutes for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The research led by Professor Nicholas Hopkinson was published today in the European Respiratory Journal.

“This is one of the longest-duration studies in this area so far. The results are very promising, but will need to be confirmed in larger, longer-term studies” Professor Nick Hopkinson Study lead

COPD is a serious lung condition affecting around 400 million people worldwide. COPD which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, causes breathing difficulties and severely limits people’s capacity for physical activity. It also increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. 

The new research tested a 12-week course of a concentrated beetroot juice supplement  that is high in nitrate against a beetroot juice placebo that looked and tasted the same but had the nitrate removed.

Professor Hopkinson comments “There is some evidence that beetroot juice as a source of nitrate supplementation could be used by athletes to improve their performance, as well as a few 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 blood vessels relax. It also increases the efficiency of muscles, meaning they need less oxygen to do the same work.”

The new study included 81 people with COPD who were being treated at the Royal Brompton Hospital, London, UK, and whose systolic blood pressure measured higher than 130 millimetres of mercury (mmHg). Systolic blood pressure is the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats and the ideal range is between 90 and 120mmHg. As well as monitoring patients’ blood pressure, researchers tested how far patients could walk in six minutes at the beginning and end of the study.

Participants were randomly allocated to either receive the 12-month course of nitrate-rich beetroot supplement (70 millilitres of concentrated beetroot juice containing 400 milligrams of nitrate once a day) or the placebo.

Researchers found that those taking the nitrate-rich supplement experienced an average reduction in systolic blood pressure of 4.5mmHg compared to those taking the placebo. There was also an average increase of around 30 meters in how far patients could walk in six minutes for those taking the nitrate-rich beetroot juice.

Professor Hopkinson said: “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 how far people with COPD could walk in six minutes compared to placebo.

“This is one of the longest-duration studies in this area so far. The results are very promising, but will need to be confirmed in larger, longer-term studies.”


‘Oral nitrate supplementation improves cardiovascular risk markers in COPD: ON-BC a randomised controlled trial’ by Hopkinson et al. is published in European Respiratory Journal. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1183/13993003.02353-2022

Main article image credit: Pixabay.

Reporter

Ms Helen Johnson

Ms Helen Johnson
National Heart & Lung Institute

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Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6843
Email: helen.johnson@imperial.ac.uk

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