Have you had your beetroot today? Or dark leafy greens for that matter? These colourful veggies are natural sources of dietary nitrates and whether you run, ride, swim or gym, they can play a role in supporting your best performance. Exercise aside, dietary nitrates play a role in heart health and may also support brain function, too.
Beetroot, dietary nitrates and brain function
Can you believe that our brain makes up only around 2-3 per cent of our total body weight yet consumes around 25 per cent of our body’s oxygen supply? To keep up with the brain’s demand for oxygen, the body produces nitric oxide, and is supported by nitrates in the food we eat. So, when we supplement our diet with nitrates, early studies suggest that we’re supporting the transport and delivery of glucose and oxygen, along with other nutrients, to the brain (1-4).
The benefits of nitrates don’t stop with transporting oxygen and nutrients. They have also been scientifically shown to support blood vessel flexibility and blood flow (5) around the body and brain. Any impairment in blood flow to the brain, including blood vessel stiffness, can interfere with the brain’s oxygen supply and electrical signalling functions. These factors have been linked to impairment of normal cognitive function (6).
It’s also suggested that nitrate-rich juices that produce nitric oxide may help to support blood flow to the brain. Researchers investigated the effects of beetroot juice on ten healthy young women and its effect on cerebral blood flow. The women were randomly assigned to drink either orange juice (placebo) or beetroot juice two hours prior to exercise (7).
After supplementation with the beetroot juice to increase nitric oxide levels, they exercised at 40 and 80 per cent of their peak intensity. Researchers discovered that as nitric oxide levels increased, there was a 20-25 per cent reduction in arterial stiffness (or improved arterial flexibility) to assist blood flow, as well as oxygen and nutrient delivery around the body.
According to this research, the benefits of vegetable-based nitrates from beetroot, dark leafy greens and celery (to name a few) go beyond exercising muscles! AMPED NOx also has nitrate-rich extracts, so if you’re looking for an Isagenix alternative add some to your next order.
- Wightman EL et al. Dietary nitrate modulates cerebral blood flow parameters and cognitive performance in humans: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover investigation. Physiol Behav. 2015 Oct 1; 149:149-58.
- Thompson KG et al. Influence of dietary nitrate supplementation on physiological and cognitive responses to incremental cycle exercise. Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2014 Mar 1; 193:11-20.
- Lacoste B & Gu C. Control of cerebrovascular patterning by neural activity during postnatal development. Mech Dev. 2015 Nov; 138 (P1):43-9.
- Jakovcevic D & Harder DR. Role of astrocytes in matching blood flow to neuronal activity. Curr Top Dev Biol. 2007; 79:75-97.
- Triantafyllidi H et al. Cognitive impairment is related to increased arterial stiffness and microvascular damage in patients with never-treated essential hypertension. Am J Hypertens. 2009 May; 22(5):525-30.
- Gorelick PB et al. Vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia: a statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. 2011 Sep; 42(9):2672-713.
- Curry BH et al. Effects of a Dietary Beetroot Juice Treatment on Systemic and Cerebral Haemodynamics- A Pilot Study. J Clin Diagn Res. 2016 Jul; 10(7):CC01-5.