The Power of Beets in Blood Pressure Reduction and Sports Performance

Published on November 21, 2013 by Dr. Traj Nibber

Support for the use of nitrate rich foods or drinks in maintaining good health continues to be published. Two new studies from the UK suggest that the nitrates in beetroot can reduce blood pressure level as well as boost the performance running time of female athletes.

The first study from the University of Reading in England incorporated red and white beetroot into a unique bread formulation. Fourteen healthy males participated in this double blind randomized cross-over study. Each participant consumed either 100g (2 slices) of white or red beetroot enriched bread and then had their blood pressure levels measured for a period of up to 24 hours. In both cases there was a significant drop in the diastolic blood pressure 2-3 hours after consumption of the enriched bread. The effects persisted for 24 hours.

This result is consistent with previous research which strongly suggests that blood pressure level is reduced when beetroot is taken either as beetroot juice, or as a supplement, or as in one of these studies by being incorporated into bread. The beetroot did not negatively affect the taste or appeal of the bread.

The second study from the University of Sheffield in the UK reported that female athletes who consumed 140ml of the beetroot juice improved their running times. In this study, eleven female runners reduced their running times by 16 seconds and by 12 seconds for the 1 and 2 km distances, respectively.

Previous studies have reported that beetroot can significantly improve exercise endurance and stamina. One of the effects it has is to reduce the amount of oxygen required by the muscles.

Most of the beneficial effects are attributed to nitrates which are abundant in beetroot, as well as other leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, lettuce, and others. Nitrates have been shown to cause dilation of blood vessels, thereby improving blood as well as nutrient flow to key organs such as the muscles, heart and kidneys.

Have you tried beetroot juice or supplementation? Let me know how you use it in the comments below!

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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.

Hobbs, D et-al “Blood pressure-lowering effects of beetroot juice and novel beetroot enriched bread products in normotensive male subjects” Br J Nutr. 2012;108: 2066-2074