In a study from the University of Exeter, scientists found drinking beetroot juice promotes a mix of mouth bacteria linked to healthier blood vessels and brain function in older people.
Beetroot—and other foods including lettuce, spinach and celery—are rich in inorganic nitrate, and many oral bacteria play a role in turning nitrate to nitric oxide, which helps to regulate blood vessels and neurotransmission (chemical messages in the brain).
Older people tend to have lower nitric oxide production, and this is linked to poorer vascular (blood vessel) and cognitive (brain) health.
In this study, the team tested 26 healthy older people in two 10-day supplementation periods: one with nitrate-rich beetroot juice and another with nitrate-free placebo juice, which they drank twice a day.
The team showed higher levels of bacteria linked to good vascular and cognitive health, and lower levels of bacteria linked to disease and inflammation.
Systolic blood pressure dropped on average by five points (mmHg) after drinking the beetroot juice.
The findings suggest that adding nitrate-rich foods to the diet—in this case via beetroot juice—for just ten days can substantially alter the oral microbiome (mix of bacteria) for the better.
The team says maintaining this healthy oral microbiome in the long term might slow down the negative vascular and cognitive changes associated with aging.
They stress that more research is needed to confirm the findings and see whether similar effects are found in other groups.
Dietary nitrate reduced their blood pressure on average, and the researchers are keen to find out whether the same would happen in other age groups and among people in poorer health.
Much research has been conducted into the benefits of a healthy gut microbiome, but far less is known about the oral microbial community, which plays a crucial role in “activating” the nitrate from a vegetable-rich diet.
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The study was conducted by Professor Anni Vanhatalo et al and published in the journal Redox Biology.
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