Beetroot improves the ability to exercise in patients with heart failure

June 04, 2018

The heart, a large muscle that pumps blood has four chambers, two on top that fill with blood and two on the bottom that pump out blood; the left lower chamber pumps oxygen rich blood out to the body and the right lower chamber pumps blood back to the lungs to refill with oxygen. The amount of oxygen rich blood that’s pumped from the left lower chamber is called the ejection fraction. The hearts ejection fraction is normally above 55% meaning that the heart pumps out at least 55% of the oxygen rich blood that fills the lower left chamber every time it beats. In people with heart failure, the heart often has a reduced capacity to pump and the ejection fraction is below 40%. Because the heart is pumping less oxygen rich blood, people with heart failure have trouble exercising. They have shortness of breath and are fatigued and have trouble concentrating.

The capacity to exercise is a key factor linked to quality of life and even survival in these patients. In this study patients with heart failure were given red beet juice rich in nitrates, or red beet juice practically devoid of nitrates which served as the placebo. The nitrate rich beet juice improved nitric oxide activity. Nitric oxide is the gas that pumps your blood vessels open for smoother circulation. This resulted in a net increase in oxygen delivered to the muscles and an increase in exercise capacity. The beetroot juice led to a significant increase in exercise duration, peak power, and peak oxygen uptake during exercise. The study was performed at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and is published in the Journal of Cardiac Failure.