Beetroot juice lowers blood pressure for people with COPD

22 December 2023

New research published in the European Respiratory Journal finds beetroot juice supplement lowers blood pressure and improves exercise capacity in people with COPD.

Undertaken in patients from Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals, the study found taking a daily beetroot juice supplement lowered blood pressure and improved how far patients could walk in six minutes for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is a serious lung condition affecting around 400 million people worldwide and includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The disease causes breathing difficulties and severely limits people’s capacity for physical activity. It also increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Led by Professor Nicholas Hopkinson, honorary consultant physician, the new research tested a 12-week course of a concentrated beetroot juice supplement that is high in nitrate, against a beetroot juice placebo that looked and tasted the same but had the nitrate removed.

Professor Hopkinson comments “There is some evidence that beetroot juice as a source of nitrate supplementation could be used by athletes to improve their performance, as well as a few short-term studies looking at blood pressure. Higher levels of nitrate in the blood can increase the availability of nitric oxide, a chemical that helps blood vessels relax. It also increases the efficiency of muscles, meaning they need less oxygen to do the same work.”

The new study included 81 people with COPD whose systolic blood pressure measured higher than 130 millimetres of mercury (mmHg). Systolic blood pressure is the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats and the ideal range is between 90 and 120mmHg. As well as monitoring patients’ blood pressure, researchers tested how far patients could walk in six minutes at the beginning and end of the study.

Participants were randomly allocated to either receive the 12-month course of nitrate-rich beetroot supplement (70 millilitres of concentrated beetroot juice containing 400 milligrams of nitrate once a day) or the placebo.

Researchers found that those taking the nitrate-rich supplement experienced an average reduction in systolic blood pressure of 4.5mmHg compared to those taking the placebo. There was also an average increase of around 30 meters in how far patients could walk in six minutes for those taking the nitrate-rich beetroot juice.

Professor Hopkinson said: “At the end of the study, we found that the blood pressure of people taking the nitrate-rich beetroot juice drink was lower and their blood vessels became less stiff. The juice also increased how far people with COPD could walk in six minutes compared to placebo.

“This is one of the longest-duration studies in this area so far. The results are very promising, but will need to be confirmed in larger, longer-term studies.”

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A version of this article first appeared here, written by Helen Johnson