Posted on Apr 20, 2017, 6 a.m.
New study reveals that drinking beetroot juice prior to working out enables the aging brain to perform more efficiently and appear younger.
Previous studies have shown that beetroot juice increases blood flow to the skeletal muscles during exercise by 38%. Now, researchers at Wake Forest University have found that drinking beetroot juice ahead of a workout improves the brains of older adults. The beetroot juice supplement provides the brains of this demographic function with improved efficiency, mirroring the functionality of younger brains. Though it was known that exercise alone makes a positive impact on the brain, it comes as a bit of a surprise that beetroot juice supplements also bolster mental processing power. The results of the study were recently made available to the public in peer-reviewed Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.
About the Study
The brief training study keyed in on hypertensive older individuals. The effort was led by W. Jack Rejeski, the Director of the Behavioral Medicine Laboratory in the Department of Health & Exercise Science. The study's lead author was Meredith Petrie, one of Rejeski's former undergraduate students. The study served as the first test to gauge the combined impact of exercise and beetroot juice supplements on the brain's functional networks in the motor cortex along with the secondary connections between the insula and cortex that ameliorate mobility.
The study analyzed 26 men and women over the age of 55. These individuals performed no exercise, were saddled by high blood pressure and received no more than two medications to treat the malady. Half the study participants were provided with Beet-It Sport Shot with 560 mg of nitrate, a beetroot juice supplement, three times per week for six weeks. They consumed the supplement an hour before embarking on a 50-minute walking session on a treadmill. The other half received a placebo Beet-It with minimal nitrate.
A Word on Beets
Beets are loaded with dietary nitrate. This nitrate is converted to nitrite and subsequently converted to nitric oxide after consumption. Nitric oxide stimulates blood flow through the body. Several studies have shown nitric oxide boosts exercise performance in individuals across numerous age groups. It is revered as a powerful molecule that travels to portions of the body that are hypoxic or in need of oxygen.
The brain is one of the primary suppliers of oxygen to the body. As one exercises, the brain's somatomotor cortex sorts cues stemming from the body. Exercise serves to strengthen the somatomotor cortex. The combination of beetroot juice and exercise provides an abundance of oxygen to the brain, creating a fantastic environment for boosting the strength of the somatomotor cortex.
Post-exercise analysis makes it clear that the group that consumed beetroot juice enjoyed heightened levels of nitrate and nitrite compared to those who consumed the placebo before exercising. It is important to note that participants in both groups had nearly the same levels of nitrate and nitrite in their blood before consuming the beetroot juice and placebo. Though additional studies must be performed, the study's findings suggest that the foods and drinks consumed during the aging process make a monumental impact on the maintenance of the brain's health and functionality.
Meredith Petrie, W. Jack Rejeski, Swati Basu, Paul J. Laurienti, Anthony P. Marsh, James L. Norris, Daniel B. Kim-Shapiro, Jonathan H. Burdette. Beet Root Juice: An Ergogenic Aid for Exercise and the Aging Brain. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 2016; glw219 DOI: 10.1093/gerona/glw219