Node Smith, ND
Two recent studies on beetroot juice supplements support their use in certain disorders of the heart, and as protection for the kidneys after radioactive isotopes are used for imaging techniques.1,2 Specifically, beetroot juice was found to enhance the exercise capacity of individuals with heart failure.
Beetroot Juice and Heart Failure
The research study looked at the impact of a dietary beetroot juice, in the form of a supplement on the exercise capacity of 8 individuals with heart failure. All patients had reduced ejection fraction – diminished cardiac muscle contraction leading to ineffective contraction, which in the end means less oxygen-rich blood is supplied to tissues. Beetroot juice is a potent dietary nitrate, which is a source of nitric oxide (NO). Dietary nitrate has been seen to help increase exercise capacity in this patient population before and increases in blood NO is known to increase exercise stamina in healthy individuals.
Significant increases in exercise capacity
Patients with heart failure experience symptoms of labored breathing, diminished peak oxygen uptake and use more energy during exercise than healthy individuals. The study saw that individuals taking the beetroot supplement had significant increases in exercise capacity, as well as increases in peak oxygen uptake while exercising. There were no changes in breathing patterns or in exercise efficiency.
Another important finding from the study was that there were no side effects seen from the beetroot juice supplement.
Beetroot Juice and Kidney Protection
A second study, from the Heart Research UK is looking into whether these same beetroot supplements could be used to prevent kidney failure arising from the use of dyes for coronary angiography. Coronary angiography is an x-ray technique that looks at arteries in the heart to diagnose various heart disorders. It is also used in planning surgical procedures of the heart. During angiography, a special dye is used intravenously to make the blood vessels visible. The trouble with this dye is that it is known to cause acute kidney injury – contrast induced nephropathy (CIN).
Part of the mechanism of action of CIN is that the contrast dye reduces nitric oxide levels in the kidneys. Dietary nitrate, which is high in beetroot is known to increase these levels. If supplemental beetroot juice could be given to increase nitric oxide and prevent acute kidney injury after these imaging techniques, the need for routine dialysis in these patients may drastically diminish.
Study is Underway
The study to determine whether this is a viable option is underway at Queen Mary’s William Harvey Research Institute.
Queen Mary’s William Harvey Research Institute is just one recipient of Heart Research UK’s Translational Research Project Grants. Awarded since 2009, the national charity based in Leeds has given almost £5m to fund these innovative and pioneering medical research projects across the UK.
- Coggan AR, Broadstreet SR, Mahmood K, et al. Dietary Nitrate Increases VOpeak and Performance but Does Not Alter Ventilation or Efficiency in Patients With Heart Failure With Reduced Ejection Fraction. J Card Fail. 2018;24(2):65-73.
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.