A new study claimed that drinking beetroot juice supplement before working out makes the brain of older adults perform more efficiently, mirroring the functions of a younger brain.
Researchers from Wake Forest University in the US studied about 26 men and women aged 55 and older who did not exercise, had high blood pressure and took no more than two medications for high blood pressure.
The participants drank a beetroot juice supplement called Beet-It Sport Shot, three times a week for six weeks, one hour before a moderately intense, 50-minute walk on a treadmill.
Half the participants received Beet-It containing 560 milligrammes of nitrate, the others received a placebo Beet-It with very little nitrate. When you exercise, the brain's somatomotor cortex, which processes information from the muscles, sorts out the cues coming in from the body. Exercise should strengthen the somatomotor cortex, researchers said.
So, combining beetroot juice with exercise delivers even more oxygen to the brain and creates an excellent environment for strengthening the somatomotor cortex. Post-exercise analysis showed that, although the study groups had similar levels of nitrate and nitrite in the blood before drinking the juice, the beetroot juice group had much higher levels of nitrate and nitrite than the placebo group after exercise, researchers said.
Beets contain a high level of dietary nitrate, which is converted to nitrite and then nitric oxide (NO) when consumed. Nitric oxide increases blood flow in the body, and multiple studies have shown it can improve exercise performance in people of various ages, researchers said.
"Nitric oxide is a really powerful molecule. It goes to the areas of the body which are hypoxic, or needing oxygen, and the brain is a heavy feeder of oxygen in your body," said W Jack Rejeski of Wake Forest University.
"We knew, going in, that a number of studies had shown that exercise has positive effects on the brain. But what we showed in this brief training study of hypertensive older adults was that, as compared to exercise alone, adding a beet root juice supplement to exercise resulted in brain connectivity that closely resembles what you see in younger adults," Rejeski said.
The study was published in the Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.