A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition highlighted the benefits of nitrate-rich vegetables to one’s diet, specifically in the form of increased muscle strength and mobility. One such food mentioned in the study was beetroot, which is rich in inorganic nitrate. Now, another study published in Redox Biology is linking beetroot and other nitrate-rich ingredients to yet another benefit.
According to the study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter, beetroot juice promotes a mix of good oral bacteria, which in turn helps regulate blood vessels and neurotransmission (Volume 41, May 2021, 101933). Specifically, the authors noted, “Relative abundances of Proteobacteria increased, while Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes and Fusobacteria decreased after nitrate supplementation.”
For the randomized, placebo-controlled cross-over study, 26 healthy individuals aged 70 to 80 participated in two 10-day supplementation periods; during those periods, subjects were given either nitrate-rich beetroot juice or a nitrate-free placebo twice daily. Results showed that, for the nitrate-supplementation group, “the Prevotella-Veillonella cluster was diminished, while the Neisseria-Haemophilus and Streptococcus-Rothia clusters thrived under nitrate supplementation. In terms of oral health, the Prevotella-Veillonella module has been associated with proteolytic metabolism and an early inflammatory state with a dysbiotic prognosis.”
In addition, systolic blood pressure among the supplementation group dropped by an average of five points. The study’s authors noted this drop in blood pressure was an especially interesting finding, writing, “Dietary nitrate reduced their blood pressure on average, and we are keen to find out whether the same would happen in other age groups and among people in poorer health.”
"We are really excited about these findings, which have important implications for healthy ageing," said Anni Vanhatalo, Ph.D., one of the study’s lead authors. “Our 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 for the better.”
Research into the microbiome and its effect on overall health is nothing new these days. Recent studies have shown the microbiome could play a role in childhood allergies, COVID-19 severity and obesity. Because of this connection between the microbiome and overall health—and consumers’ growing understanding of this link—microbiome-improving probiotics have become increasingly popular. These helpful bacteria can be found in everything from kids’ snacks to coffee and tea and even snack bars and confections.
"We are working with colleagues in the University of Exeter Medical School to investigate interactions between the oral bacteria and cognition to better understand the how diet could be used to delay cognitive decline in older age," concluded Vanhatelo. "Maintaining this healthy oral microbiome in the long term might slow down the negative vascular and cognitive changes associated with ageing."