Beetroot helps slow ageing
Drinking beetroot juice promotes a mix of mouth bacteria associated with healthier blood vessels and better brain function, according to a study of people aged 70–80.
Beetroot — and other foods, including lettuce, spinach and celery — are rich in inorganic nitrate. Many of the bacteria in the mouth play a role in turning nitrate into nitric oxide, which helps regulate blood vessels and messaging in the brain. As we age, we tend to produce less nitric oxide, which is associated with poorer vascular and cognitive health.
In the study by the University of Exeter in the UK, 26 healthy people took part in two ten-day sessions: one group drank beetroot juice twice a day and another drank nitrate-free placebo juice twice a day. The results showed higher levels of bacteria were associated with good vascular and cognitive health, and lower levels of bacteria were linked to disease and inflammation. As well, systolic blood pressure dropped on average by five points (mmHg) after drinking the beetroot juice.
“We are really excited about these findings, which have important implications for healthy ageing,” lead author Professor Anni Vanhatalo reports. “Adding nitrate-rich foods to the diet — in this case, beetroot juice — for just ten days can substantially alter the oral microbiome for the better. Maintaining this healthy oral microbiome in the long-term might slow the negative vascular and cognitive changes associated with ageing.”
Prof. Vanhatalo stresses more research is needed to confirm the findings. “Our participants were healthy, active older people with generally good blood pressure,” she notes. “Dietary nitrate reduced their blood pressure on average, and we are keen to find out whether the same would happen in other age groups and among people in poorer health.”
While a lot of research has focused on the benefits of a healthy gut microbiome, far less is known about the oral microbial community, which plays a crucial role in "activating" the nitrate from a vegetable-rich diet.