Can beetroot juice make an ageing brain perform better?
Earthy red, crunchy and delicious, beetroot juice has many positive health benefits. From easing inflammation to lowering blood pressure, the humble beet is fast gaining popularity as a super food.
Previous studies have shown that ingesting beetroot juice increases the blood flow to the brain and enhances exercise performance. But with exercise there are positive neuroplastic effects on the aging brain besides increased blood flow.
Neuroplasticity is referred to the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.
Scientists at Wake Forest University wanted to understand if there are the same synergistic effects of beet root juice and exercise on neuroplasticity in the ageing brain.
For this study, the researchers recruited 26 men and women, age 55 years and older who did no exercise. They had high blood pressure and took no more than two high blood pressure medication.
Beets contain a high level of nitrate which is converted to nitrite and then nitric oxide (NO) when consumed.
They drank a beetroot juice supplement called Beet-It Sport Shot three times a week for six weeks one hour before they commenced a moderately intense exercise session which consisted of a 50 minute walk on a treadmill.
Half the participants received Beet-it containing 560 mg of nitrate while the other half received a placebo Beet-it with very little nitrate.
The findings showed that although both the groups (Beetroot juice and the placebo group) had similar levels of nitrate and nitrite in the blood before drinking the beetroot juice, the beetroot juice group had significantly higher levels of nitrate and nitrite than the placebo group, after exercise.
This is the first study to investigate the combined effects of exercise and beetroot juice on functional brain networks in the motor cortex and secondary connections between the motor cortex and the insula, which support mobility.
During exercise the brain’s somatomotor cortex, which processes information from the muscles, sorts out all the cues from the body. Exercise should strengthen the somatomotor cortex.
Beets contain a high level of nitrate which is converted to nitrite and then nitric oxide (NO) when consumed. NO then increases blood flow to the brain.
Previous studies have shown that this increased blood flow can improve exercise performance in people of various ages.
Thus when beetroot juice and exercise is combined; it delivers more oxygen to the brain creating a tremendous environment for strengthening the somatomotor cortex.
With this study, researchers have found that compared to exercise alone, adding beetroot juice to supplement the exercise results in brain connectivity found in younger adults thus reflecting the operations of a younger brain.
Beets are delicious – roast it or steam it and mix it in your salad. Juice it for a refreshing drink before your exercise session and feel invigorated. And now you will know why – because your brain is performing better and looking younger.
Source: Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences
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