By Harriet Mallinson | Published on May 31, 2017
That beetroot is one of the new superfood staples cannot be denied. It might be messy and leave your chopping board looking like a bloodied murder weapon, but the root vegetable is excellent in smoothies and salads.
The new trend now, though, is beetroot juice consumed as a supplement. Research has proved it can pretty much turn back time.
An exciting study by scientists at Wake Forest University, North Carolina, has proved that drinking a beetroot juice supplement before working out makes the brain of older adults perform more efficiently, mirroring the operations of a younger brain.
This further proves that what we eat as we age could be critically important to the maintenance of our brain health and functional independence.
“We knew, going in, that a number of studies had shown that exercise has positive effects on the brain,” explains W. Jack Rejeski, co-author of the study and Thurman D. Kitchin Professor and Director of the Behavioral Medicine Laboratory in the university’s Department of Health & Exercise Science.
He continued: “But what we showed in this brief training study of hypertensive older adults was that, as compared to exercise alone, adding a beetroot juice supplement to exercise resulted in brain connectivity that closely resembles what you see in younger adults.”
The study included 26 men and women age 55 and older who did not exercise, had high blood pressure, and took no more than two medications for high blood pressure.
Three times a week for six weeks, they drank a beetroot juice supplement called Beet-It Sport Shot one hour before a moderately intense, 50-minute walk on a treadmill. Half the participants received Beet-It containing 560 mg of nitrate; the others received a placebo Beet-It with very little nitrate.
– RELATED: 3 Reason Why You Should Be Supplementing With Beets –
The Beet It Sport shot is concentrated beetroot juice and has a natural dietary nitrate content of 400mg and you would have to consume at least 400ml of normal beetroot juice to get anywhere near the same nitrate benefit. The shot provides the maximum intake of nitrate in the smallest volume of liquid (7cl/70ml) for a quick, easy and palatable hit before exercise.
Post-exercise analysis showed that, although the study groups had similar levels of nitrate and nitrite in the blood before drinking the juice, the beetroot juice group had much higher levels of nitrate and nitrite than the placebo group after exercise.
Beets contain a high level of dietary nitrate, which is converted to nitrite and then nitric oxide (NO) when consumed. This then increases blood flow in the body.
When you exercise, the brain’s somatomotor cortex, which processes information from the muscles, sorts out the cues coming in from the body. Exercise should strengthen the somatomotor cortex.
So, combining beetroot juice with exercise delivers even more oxygen to the brain and creates an excellent environment for strengthening the somatomotor cortex
“Nitric oxide is a really powerful molecule,’ says Jack. “It goes to the areas of the body which are hypoxic, or needing oxygen, and the brain is a heavy feeder of oxygen in your body.”
The study, “Beet Root Juice: An Ergogenic Aid for Exercise and the Aging Brain,” was published in the peer-reviewed Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences. One of his former undergraduate students, Meredith Petrie, was the lead author on the paper.
This is not the first time beetroot has been shown to have potent qualities. According to a 2012 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, consuming whole beets improved running performance among fit adults, while a 2008 study published in Hypertension showed that blood pressure dropped after drinking beetroot juice.
Move over kale, we know what we’re having for lunch.