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Beetroot juice before exercise boosts heart function in patients: study

A significant study conducted on heart patients before starting their exercise showed that giving them beetroot juice has significantly improved their exercise function, especially in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The study conducted by Wake Forest University team monitored a small group of COPD patients who were given beetroot juice and compared them with another group given a placebo drink before starting their exercise.

Beetroot juice enhances exercise function of heart.

Beetroot juice enhances exercise function of heart.

In all, 15 COPD patients,  11 white males, one African-American male and three white females were observed in four visits. In visit one, they completed baseline pulmonary function testing, filled out health status questionnaires, had a brief medical examination and completed an incremental exercise test on a stationary bicycle to determine their maximal exercise work rate.

The second visit one week later consisted of additional pulmonary function and lung volume testing, as well as a familiarization exercise test on an exercise bicycle at 75 percent of the patients’ previously determined maximal work rates.

“The intent of this study was to determine if acute ingestion of beetroot juice, which is rich with nitrates, prior to exercising could improve the exercise capacity of COPD patients,” said Michael Berry, chair of Wake Forest’s department of health and exercise science.

COPD makes it difficult for patients to breathe and worsens gradually and in turn limits their activities, forcing them to become more sedentary and lose fitness and physical function.

The findings, however, showed that those patients who drank beetroot juice were able to extend their exercise time and had reduced exercise diastolic and resting systolic blood pressures during the exercise.

“This is the first study to demonstrate beneficial effects of dietary nitrite supplementation on exercise performance and blood pressure in patients with COPD,” Berry said. By increasing the exercise, patients tend to get positive results and are more likely to continue doing it, he added.

“If beetroot juice positively impacts those results, it could motivate COPD patients to continue to be physically active and improve their health,” he noted.

The research has been published in the journal Nitric Oxide: Biology and Chemistry.

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