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Beet juice

Building on a growing body of work that suggests dietary nitrate improves muscle performance in elite athletes, a team of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found that concentrated beet juice, which is high in nitrates, increases muscle power in patients who have heart failure. Because many of the activities of daily living are power-based — getting out of a chair, lifting groceries, climbing stairs — improving muscle power is important to quality of life for heart-failure patients.

MUSCLE WEAKNESS IS ONE OF THE MAIN THINGS THAT CAUSES DISABILITY IN HEART FAILURE PATIENTS, BUT NEW RESEARCH AT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE IN ST. LOUIS HAS FOUND THAT BEETS MAY PLAY A ROLE IN REVERSING THAT PROBLEM AND MAKING MUSCLES MORE POWERFUL. THE RESEARCH TEAM REPORTS THAT AFTER TREATMENT WITH CONCENTRATED BEET JUICE, HEART FAILURE PATIENTS GOT STRONGER AND MORE ABLE TO CARRY ON THE TASKS OF DAILY LIFE. JIM DRYDEN REPORTS…

SOME ELITE ATHLETES ARE INCREASING THE NITRATE LEVELS IN THEIR DIETS AS A WAY TO IMPROVE MUSCLE PERFORMANCE, SO THE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY RESEARCHERS WANTED TO SEE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF THEY USED THE SAME STRATEGY IN HEART FAILURE PATIENTS, WHO TEND TO SUFFER FROM MUSCLE WEAKNESS, AMONG OTHER DEBILITATING SYMPTOMS. WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY CARDIOLOGIST LINDA PETERSON.

(act) :16 o/c their disability

A lot of athletes are using beet juice — it’s basically legal

“doping” because it’s a food; it’s not regulated like a drug.

We thought, “Well, what if we can take that and make patients

more powerful?” because that’s part of their disability.

AND WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGIST ANDREW COGGAN SAYS THE IDEA IS THAT BY INCREASING NITRATES IN THE DIET, THE BODY EVENTUALLY HAS MORE NITRIC OXIDE AVAILABLE. THAT’S A SUBSTANCE KNOWN TO RELAX BLOOD VESSELS AND PROVIDE OTHER BENEFITS. BEET JUICE HAPPENS TO BE HIGH IN NITRATES, AND FOR THE LAST FEW YEARS, COGGAN SAYS PEOPLE HAVE BEEN STUDYING ITS EFFECTS IN ELITE ATHLETES.

(act) :16 o/c biggest effect

The initial studies were focused on exercise efficiency and more

aerobic-type exercise, especially high intensity like running an

all-out mile. But then we suggested that we also start looking more

directly at muscle contractile function — speed and power — and, in

fact, that’s where we’re seeing the biggest effect.

IT WAS QUITE A BIG EFFECT, HE SAYS. HEART FAILURE PATIENTS SAW THEIR MUSCLE POWER INCREASE BY AROUND 10 PERCENT. HE SAYS HEART FAILURE PATIENTS DON’T NEED TO INCREASE THEIR TIME IN THE MILE, BUT THE EXTRA STRENGTH CAN HELP WITH SOME OF THE MORE MUNDANE ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIFE.

(act) :21 o/c training program

Climbing a set of stairs, getting up out of a chair, you know,

carrying groceries, etc. And what we’re finding in the heart failure

patients is, roughly speaking, about a 10 percent increase in the

maximal speed, and hence the maximal power, that muscle can produce.

And that’s comparable to what people get after, say, several months

of a targeted, resistance-exercise training program.

AND COGGAN SAYS THOSE SORTS OF IMPROVEMENTS MAY SOMEDAY MAKE BEET JUICE, OR SOME SIMILAR NITRATE-DELIVERY SYSTEM, AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO FIGHT SOME OF THE DECLINES IN MUSCLE POWER THAT ARE ASSOCIATED WITH AGING.

(act) :17 o/c years younger

If you were putting it in the context of aging — which is another

situation in which muscle function is diminished — the rough rule

of thumb is that exercise performance declines about one percent

per year. So the 10 percent improvement we’re seeing is, roughly

speaking, it’s like drinking beet root juice and being 10 years younger.

AND PETERSON SAYS A LOT MORE RESEARCH IS NEEDED, BUT SHE SAYS THE PRELIMINARY RESULTS ARE VERY PROMISING.

(act) :27 o/c about this

I think if there were a drug company that came out with a new

drug that made people 10 percent stronger, there would be a lot

of investment in this. But this is a simple, low-tech way of

increasing nitric oxide for patients that has efficacy in improving

muscle function in a very short period of time, with a relatively

benign side-effect profile. We’re very excited about this.

COGGAN AND PETERSON REPORT THEIR FINDINGS IN THE JOURNAL CIRCULATION: HEART FAILURE. I’M JIM DRYDEN…

RUNS 2:58