Study Shows Beetroot Juice Benefits Postmenopausal Women’s Cardiovascular Health

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During and after menopause, the body produces less estrogen, often leading to poorer blood vessel function and a greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Beets and beetroot juice are high in nitrates. The study observed improved blood vessel performance in participants who drank beetroot juice daily. 

The findings appear in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition. The researchers recruited an initial 54 women at the postmenopausal stage from the local community, but the final analysis included only 24 women: 12 in early post menopause and 12 in late postmenopausal. 

The participants had a resting blood pressure of less than 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 to 35 kilograms per square meter (kg/m2), fasting low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol below 160 milligrams per deciliter (mm/dL), a hemoglobin A1C below 6%, and normal fasting blood sugar. 

Each bottle delivered the same level of nitrates as three large beets. A few weeks later, individuals received beetroot juice from which the nitrate had been removed, serving as a placebo. 

The study authors performed imaging via Doppler ultrasound to assess the effect of the beetroot juice on participants’ brachial artery blood flow — the brachial artery is on the inside of one’s upper arm — before and after consumption, and the same was done with the placebo. 

Additionally, neither the nitrate-rich beetroot juice nor placebo prevented the decline in blood flow after ischemia-reperfusion (IR) injury in either group. The reduction of estrogen production during the menopausal transition accelerates development of heart disease risk factors, such as increased LDL cholesterol, vascular stiffening, and high blood pressure. This cluster of risk factors renders the vasculature vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases atherosclerosis, stroke, heart attack, etc.. 

Compounding these effects is the fact that estrogen serves as both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, helping reduce the development of plaques that can lead to heart attacks. 

Vasomotor symptoms are increasingly being recognized as not the innocuous and prerequisite silent suffering of women, but rather decreased sleep is a risk factor for heart disease. The intensity and duration of hot flashes also seem to bear a strong correlation. Black women tend to suffer greater vasomotor symptoms as well. Consuming nitrate through plants is a secondary pathway to increase the availability of nitric oxide in the body. This is a molecule responsible for widening blood vessels to accommodate blood flow and oxygen delivery to organs such as the heart. Since estrogen is no longer sufficient to stimulate nitric oxide production in the body naturally following menopause, dietary nitrate can be converted to nitric oxide through the entero-salivary pathway to help maintain healthy blood vessel functioning. 

Since plants contain nitrate from the soil, there is technically only one type of ‘nitrate’ in these natural food sources. However, when talking about nitrate in terms of preservatives or additives in animal products, there can be several forms of nitrate, which some term as ‘nitrates.’ Leafy green vegetables (lettuce, arugula, cabbage, spinach), stem and shoot vegetables (celery, rhubarb), herbs (basil, cilantro), and root vegetables (radish, beet, turnip) are the highest sources of dietary nitrate.

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