Drinking a sweet glass of beetroot juice before a workout may help the aging brain perform better, according to a new study.
Researchers at Wake Forest University found older adults who drank a beetroot juice supplement before exercising had similar brain function to a younger brain.
“We knew, going in, that a number of studies had shown that exercise has positive effects on the brain," study author W. Jack Rejeski, said in a press release. “But what we showed in this brief training study of hypertensive older adults was that, as compared to exercise alone, adding beet root juice supplement to exercise resulted in brain connectivity that closely resembles what you see in younger adults.”
The small study, published in Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, involved 26 men and women, age 55 and older, who weren’t physically active, had high blood pressure, and took no more than two medications for their high blood pressure.
Over the course of six weeks, all of the participants drank a beetroot juice supplement one hour before their three weekly treadmill workouts. Half of the participants received a dose of the juice containing 560 mg nitrate and the others received a placebo with minimal nitrate, a chemical found naturally in beets. Your body’s chain reaction changes nitrates into nitrite then nitric oxide, which increases blood flow in the body.
The scientists found that the subjects who drank the beetroot juice with the high dose of nitrate had healthier brains with more oxygen flow than those who drank the juice with little nitrate.
"Nitric oxide is a really powerful molecule. It goes to the areas of the body which are hypoxic, or needing oxygen, and the brain is a heavy feeder of oxygen in your body," said Rejeski.
Although this study adds to the list of ongoing research regarding the effects of beets on health, the authors note more extensive research is needed to better understand beets' relationship with physical functioning.