New research shows that drinking beet juice increases blood flow to the brain in older adults - a finding that has great potential for combating the development of dementia as we age.
Several studies had previously shown that drinking beet juice lowers blood pressure (BP), but now it appears beet juice can also increase blood flow to the brain. This is promising because there are some areas in the brain, known to be associated with cognition and memory retention, whose blood supply diminishes with age.
Beets contain high concentrations of natural compounds known as nitrates, which are also found in celery, cabbage and leafy green vegetables.
When we eat high-nitrate foods, good bacteria in our mouths turn nitrates into nitrites. Previous research has shown that nitrites open up blood vessels, increasing blood flow and oxygen to areas lacking oxygen.
In this study, researchers looked at the effects of dietary nitrates, similar to those found in beets, on 14 adults age 70 and older when consumed over a period of four days.
On the first day of the study, subjects reported to the lab after a 10-hour fast. There, they completed a health status report and consumed either a high- or low-nitrate breakfast. The high-nitrate breakfast included 16 ounces of beet juice. Afterwards they were sent home with lunch, dinner and snacks according to their assigned diets.
The next day, following another 10-hour fast, subjects returned to the lab where they once again had their assigned breakfasts. One hour after breakfast, an MRI recorded blood flow in each subject's brain.
For the third and fourth days of the study, the researchers switched the high- or low-nitrate diets for each subject.
The MRIs taken during the study showed that after eating a high-nitrate diet, older adults had increased blood flow to the frontal lobes - these are brain areas that degenerate with age, leading to dementia and other age-related mental conditions.
In other words, regular consumption of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables contribute to improved brain health, lowering the risk of developing poor cognition and dementia as we age.
So if you haven’t done so already - perhaps it’s time to boost your brain health by eating more fruits and vegetables?
Alzheimer's Disease: Early Signs And Risk Factors
Brain Foods: How To Concentrate Better
5 Tips to Avoiding Memory Loss
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The “Brain Pill” of the Future
Beetroot Juice: A Natural Performance Enhancer?