Beetroot 'can lower blood pressure'

beetroot The juice contained as much nitrate as two beetroots

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Drinking a cup of beetroot juice can lower blood pressure, researchers say.

Drinking 250ml (8oz) cut high blood pressure readings by 10mm of mercury (mmHg) in a study of 15 patients, bringing some into the normal range, the journal Hypertension reports.

Most marked after three to six hours, the effect was detectable a day later.

Scientists say the nitrate in beetroot widens blood vessels to aid flow. And many people with angina use a nitrate drug to ease their symptoms.

The researchers, from Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, who have been studying beetroot's blood pressure lowering effects for years, say more work is still needed.

And they warn there could be one unexpected consequence of drinking beetroot juice - it can turn your urine pink.

Nitrate is found naturally in soil, where it is taken in by vegetables through the roots to help them grow.

High blood pressure

  • Left untreated, high blood pressure increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke
  • Blood pressure is recorded as two figures - systolic, when the heart pumps blood out, and diastolic, when the heart rests
  • You are said to have high blood pressure if readings on separate occasions consistently show your blood pressure to be 140/90mmHg or higher
  • A blood pressure reading below 130/80mmHg is normal

Researcher Dr Amrita Ahluwalia said: "We were surprised by how little nitrate was needed to see such a large effect.

"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."

Prof Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the research, said: "It supports current advice that we should all be eating plenty of green veg.

"But we need larger studies in patients to determine if nitrate-rich vegetables are effective at lowering blood pressure over the long term."

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