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Beetroot Juice May Boost Heart Health Post-Menopause, New Study Finds

New research from The Pennsylvania State University suggests that consuming beetroot juice daily can significantly enhance blood vessel function, potentially reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women. The randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover clinical trial underscores the importance of dietary nitrates, found abundantly in beets, in maintaining cardiovascular health after menopause.

The study, published in Frontiers in Nutrition, involved 24 postmenopausal women (12 in early postmenopause and 12 in late postmenopause) from an initial pool of 54 participants. The women selected for the study had a resting blood pressure below 130/80 mmHg, a BMI between 18.5 to 35 kg/m², LDL cholesterol levels under 160 mg/dL, hemoglobin A1C below 6%, and normal fasting blood sugar levels. None were smokers or taking cardiovascular medications or hormones at the time.

Participants consumed two 2.3-ounce bottles of concentrated beetroot juice daily for one week. Each bottle contained nitrates equivalent to those in three large beets. After a few weeks, the participants consumed a nitrate-free placebo juice to compare results. Blood flow in the brachial artery was measured using Doppler ultrasound before and after consumption of both the nitrate-rich and placebo juices.

The study revealed that daily consumption of nitrate-rich beetroot juice improved blood flow through the brachial artery. However, the benefits diminished within 24 hours of stopping the juice. Neither the beetroot juice nor the placebo prevented the decline in blood flow after ischemia-reperfusion (IR) injury, a common occurrence in cardiovascular diseases.

Dr. Jayne Morgan, a cardiologist and Executive Director of Health and Community Education at Piedmont Healthcare Corporation, explained that the decrease in estrogen during menopause accelerates cardiovascular risk factors such as high LDL cholesterol, vascular stiffening, and high blood pressure. Estrogen’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties protect against these risks, and its reduction leaves postmenopausal women more vulnerable to heart disease.

Dr. Jocelyn M. Delgado Spicuzza, the study's senior author, emphasized that dietary nitrates from beetroot juice can help compensate for the loss of estrogen-induced nitric oxide production, crucial for blood vessel health. "By determining eight proteins in the blood, we can identify potential Parkinson’s patients several years in advance," said Dr. Michael Bartl, co-first author of the study.

Plant-sourced nitrates, unlike those found in processed meats, provide cardiovascular benefits without adverse effects. Dr. Delgado Spicuzza recommended consuming leafy greens, root vegetables, and herbs for their high nitrate content. This aligns with Dr. Morgan’s broader dietary advice for postmenopausal women to include heart-healthy foods such as pomegranate juice, which is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, citrus fruits containing flavonoids and vitamin C for vascular health, dark chocolate high in flavonoids that improve endothelial function, leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, and arugula which are nitrate-rich, berries which are high in antioxidants and polyphenols, olive oil which contains anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fats and polyphenols, garlic which contains sulfur compounds that relax blood vessels, fish which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation, and green tea which contains catechins that support cardiovascular health.

This study highlights the potential of beetroot juice to improve cardiovascular health in postmenopausal women by enhancing blood vessel function. Further research is needed to explore the long-term benefits and mechanisms behind these findings, but the results provide a promising avenue for dietary intervention in reducing postmenopausal heart disease risk.

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