12 January - 20 June 2016

Nitrite and hypertension

24 April 13

Drinking as little as one cup of beetroot juice every day could help lower blood pressure according to a small-scale joint study conducted by researchers at Barts, London School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of London, Exeter Medical School and Kings College London.  Firstly Ahluwalia et al studied the effect of ingested nitrate on healthy rats and rats with high blood pressure.  The study published in Hypertension found that dietary nitrate, after bioconversion to plasma nitrite significantly lowered blood pressure among rats that had high blood pressure compared with the healthy rats.  The results were dose-dependent, the higher the nitrate dose given to the rat, the bigger effect on reducing blood pressure. They then carried out a randomised cross over trial involving 15 individuals, with a mean age of 52.7 years, with high blood pressure of over 140/90mm Hg and who were not receiving blood pressure medication.  The individuals drank either 250 ml of beetroot juice or water and their blood pressure was monitored for a period of 24 hours. The participants having the beetroot juice were said to have received a dose of 3.5 mmol nitrate that caused a 1.5-fold increase of plasma nitrite.  After seven days, participants received the alternative drink. Ahluwalia et al found that blood pressure readings from individuals drinking the beetroot juice were cut by an average of 7% and, whilst the effects of the juice appeared to be most pronounced at around 6 hours, differences were still noticeable at the end of the period.  They suggest that the beneficial effect stems from the nitrate found in beetroot which can trigger a series of chemical reactions in the blood; increasing oxygen supply through vasodilatation.  With an estimated 16 million people in the UK having high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure, the researchers hope that this could provide an easy to employ method to improve cardiovascular health in the future.  However, they caution, this is a limited study based only on short-term effects; long term effect are still uncertain, and more work is still needed to support these findings.

RSSL's Functional Ingredients Laboratory can determine nitrates in food products. For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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