Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and concussions are generating greater medical and research interest as public awareness grows, especially in terms of their impact on younger and more vulnerable populations. A recent study found there are approximately 30,000 concussions or head related injuries reported annually among the 12 to 19 year old age group, with over 80% being sports related.1 While these numbers are increasing every year, the majority of concussions are still not being reported so the true numbers are most likely underestimated.An explosion of recent research has uncovered some of the pathophysiological pathways involved in TBI. While one unified
Breaking news – beetroot juice has been linked with improved exercise endurance, only that’s not quite “breaking news” is it? Do you ever read an article and think to yourself “finally“. I had one of those moments today while reading an article published this week in the Globe and Mail regarding the benefits of beetroot juice on exercise efficiency. (Full report here.) New research links the consumption of beetroot juice with improved physical performance during cardio endurance activity and explained the physiological basis for these remarkable findings.
To my surprise, Alberta’s very own nutraceutical aficionados, Advanced Orthomolecular Research AOR located right in the heart of Calgary, had not been mentioned despite having already found a way to pack all this beety goodness into a single power packed supplement! Delivering the same punch you’ll get from blending, baking and devouring beets.
Here’s the lowdown on beets. It ultimately boils down to the vegetables indirect ability to provide nitric oxide (NO) to the body. In case your high school chemistry is a little rusty, nitric oxide NO is a small molecule composed of nitrogen and oxygen. While it seems far too simple to be of any significance this molecule is involved in a multitude of physiologic processes, including blood pressure regulation, nerve transmission, brain function, immunity, erectile function, kidney function and more.
This small molecule nitric oxide NO is able to rapidly move into and out of cells and can participate in reactions throughout the body. One such reaction is related to the widening and relaxation of blood vessels, this means reduced blood pressure and helps more oxygen get to active tissues which helps recharge tired muscles and improve endurance. Nitric oxide NO reduces the energy spent on a muscle contraction and prevents lactic acid build up meaning you won’t feel as sore post workout.
There have been numerous clinical studies to prove the effectiveness of nitric oxide NO. Two studies from the UK related beetroot consumption with reduced blood pressure and improved running times in the performance of male and female athletes.
Producing nitric oxide and the road less travelled
You are probably wondering why I just equated beetroot consumption with nitric oxide NO. The answer, like much of science is simple (masked in a shroud of complicated jargon), beets are a source of nitrates (KNO3), and nitrates are reduced to nitric oxide NO. Our bodies have adapted two separate processes to produce nitric oxide NO. The first is the reduction of nitrates to NO. The second is a more commonly known reaction that converts amino acid l-arginine to nitric oxide NO. The l-arginine pathway only occurs in a specific range of oxygen concentrations. During exercise you “use up” much more oxygen than at rest so your muscles will tire faster. Nitric oxide NO would increase blood flow and oxygen, but the l-arginine pathway can’t produce enough nitric oxide NO fast enough. The reduction of nitrates KNO3 to nitric oxide NO is a highly efficient process as it can occur irrespective of oxygen concentration, and requires significantly less starting material i.e. potassium nitrate vs. l-arginine. With potassium nitrate KNO3 rich foods you can see effects of nitric oxide NO sooner, meaning you are not just spending time working out harder, you are working out smarter. You can read our previous blog posts here, to get more detail about the benefits of nitrates as well as insight as to why some of the stigmas associated with supplementation are outdated.
Potassium Nitrate→ Nitrate→ Nitrite→ Nitric Oxide
KNO3→ NO3→ NO2→ NO
Nitrates and vitamin C- when you can’t have your beets and eat them too
Whole foods diets are indisputably ideal for the maintenance of good health, they provide a diverse array of nutrients with synergistic effects. However, maintaining this lifestyle comes with its own challenges. First, for a therapeutic effect we often have to eat huge quantities of particular foods. This may not be sustainable due to time constraints, or even accessibility of the food. Next, with changing soil and environmental quality, key nutrients are not standardised, making it difficult to know how much or how little should be consumed. The orthomolecular supplementation approach focuses on efficiency. It involves getting the right amount of the right ingredient, or combination of ingredients, to the right place at the right time. Further, orthomolecular research aims to utilize the best forms and processes for therapeutic benefit. With this approach comes an ease of use and the practicality of providing therapeutic benefits in a capsule. Synergy between nitrates, such as those found in beets, along with vitamin C are well described. This may be why whole beetroot extracts confer the largest benefit, they naturally combine vitamin C and potassium nitrate KNO3. Vitamin C has been shown to prevent the formation of harmful byproducts of nitrates. With this knowledge, orthomolecular products combine the key ingredients standardised to therapeutic dosages.
Research has allowed us to shift our understanding of nitrates and nitric oxide NO from beets. It is exciting for those of us in the healthcare field to see industry meeting the research, like I said earlier-finally.F
Bode-Boger, S.M, & Kojda, G, “Organic Nitrates in Cardiovascular Disease” Cell.Mol.Biol. 2005. 51, 307-320. DOI 10.1170/T632.
Bondonno, C.P. et-al. “Flavonoid-rich apples and nitrate-rich spinach augment nitric oxide status and improve endothelial function in healthy men and women: a randomized controlled trial.” Free Radical Biology & Medicine 52 (2012) 95–102.
Carlstrom, M et-al. “Dietary nitrate attenuates oxidative stress, prevents cardiac and renal injuries, and reduces blood pressure in salt-induced hypertension” Cardiovascular Research. 2011; 89, 574–585. doi:10.1093/cvr/cvq366.
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Hord, N.G. et-al “Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits” Am J Clin Nutr 2009;90:1–10. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.27131.First published ahead of print.
Kapil, V et-al “Inorganic Nitrate Supplementation Lowers Blood Pressure in Humans Role for Nitrite Derived NO” Hypertension. 2010; 56: 274-281. doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.110.153536. Published online before print.
Lanceley, R et-al “Effects of dietary nitrate supplementation on 5km running time trial performance in trained female runners” Br J Sports Med 2013, 47; (17): online ahead of publication.
Siervo, M et-al “Inorganic Nitrate and Beetroot Juice Supplementation Reduces Blood Pressure in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” J. Nut 2013. 143: 818–826.