Researchers at Barts and The London School of Medicine have discovered that drinking just 500 ml of beetroot juice a day can significantly reduce blood pressure. The study could have major implications for the treatment of 1) ___ disease. Research reveals that it is the ingestion of dietary nitrate contained within beetroot juice and similarly in green, leafy vegetables – which results ultimately in decreased blood pressure. Previously the protective effects of vegetable-rich diets had been attributed to their 2) ___ vitamin content. The research team found that in healthy volunteers, blood pressure was reduced within just 1 hour of ingesting beetroot juice, with a peak drop occurring 3-4 hours after ingestion. Some degree of reduction continued to be observed until up to 24 hours after ingestion. Researchers showed that the decrease in blood pressure was due to the 3) ___ formation of nitrite from the dietary nitrate in the juice. The nitrate in the juice is converted in saliva, by 4) ___ on the tongue, into nitrite. This nitrite-containing saliva is swallowed, and in the acidic environment of the stomach is either converted into nitric oxide or re-enters the circulation as 5) ___. The peak time of reduction in blood pressure correlated with the appearance and peak levels of nitrite in the circulation, an effect that was absent in a second group of volunteers who refrained from swallowing their saliva during, and for 3 hours following, beetroot ingestion. More than 25% of the world’s adult population is hypertensive, and it has been estimated that this figure will increase to 29% by 2025. In addition, hypertension causes around 50% of coronary heart disease, and approximately 75% of strokes. In demonstrating that nitrate is likely to underlie the cardio-protective effect of a vegetable-rich diet, the research highlights the potential of a natural, low cost approach for the treatment of cardiovascular disease — a condition that kills over 110,000 people in England every year. The team stated that “Our research suggests that drinking beetroot juice, or consuming other nitrate-rich vegetables, might be a simple way to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, and might also be an additional approach that one could take in the modern day battle against rising blood pressure”. The paper, “Acute blood pressure lowering, vasoprotective and anti-platelet properties of dietary nitrate via bioconversion to nitrite,” was published online in Hypertension.

ANSWERS

1) cardiovascular; 2) antioxidant; 3) chemical; 4) bacteria; 5) nitrite; 6) pressure

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