Drinking concentrated beet juice may increase muscle strength in patients with heart failure, researchers have found. Findings from the study are published in Circulation: Heart Failure.  

Nitrates found in beet juice, spinach, and leafy green vegetables are processed into nitric oxide by the body, which relaxes blood vessels. Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis evaluated changes in muscle power in 9 patients with heart failure. They were given the beet juice treatment and an identical placebo with the nitrate content removed. A 1- to 2-week period between trials assured that effects from the first treatment did not transfer to the second. 

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Two hours after patients drank beet juice, they showed a 13% increase in power in knee extension muscles. The highest benefit was seen when the muscles moved at highest velocities. Fast, power-based actions demonstrated increased muscle performance, but study authors noted no improvements in performance for longer tests that assessed muscle fatigue. Patients also did not experience an increase in heart rate or decreased blood pressure. 

Andrew R. Coggan, PhD, assistant professor of radiology, added that “the magnitude of this improvement is comparable to that seen in heart failure patients who have done 2–3 months of resistance training.” Researchers are interested in possibly studying dietary nitrates for elderly patients. 

For more information visit medicine.wustl.edu.