The researchers recruited 26 individuals aged 55 and older with high blood pressure taking a maximum of 2 high blood pressure meds, and who didn’t exercise. They drank a supplement of beetroot juice 3 times/week for 6 weeks, and 1 hour before a 50-minute walk on a treadmill at moderate intensity. The participants were divided into 2 groups, one group received the beetroot juice which contained 560mg of nitrate, and the other group received a placebo which contained a tiny amount of nitrate.
The study revealed that the pre-exercise beetroot juice made the brains of the hypertensive older adults perform more efficiently in comparison to exercise alone, resulting in brain connectivity that resembled that of a younger adults’ brain. Although more studies are required to replicate and expand on these results, the researchers suggest that what we eat as we get older could be critically important for maintaining the health of the brain.
There are high levels of nitrate in beetroot, and when consumed, nitrate is first converted to nitrite and then from nitrite to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide increases the body’s blood flow, and several studies have proven that exercise performance can be improved with nitric oxide. It’s a powerful molecule that’s transported to parts of the body that need oxygen, and the brain needs a lot of oxygen.
When exercising, the somatomotor cortex of the brain, which processes muscle information, arranges the cues from the body. The somatomotor cortex should be made stronger with exercise. The exercise and beetroot juice combination delivers even more oxygen to the brain, creating an excellent environment to make the somatomotor cortex stronger. The study results revealed that, even though the two groups had similar nitrate and nitrite levels in the blood prior to drinking the juice, the group consuming beetroot juice had much higher nitrate and nitrite levels in comparison to the placebo group after exercising.