Acute intake of a body mass-normalized moderate dose of beetroot juice may be an effective strategy for improving vascular function and walking capacity for patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD). This clinical trial was published in the American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology (DOI: https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpregu.00121.2021) and demonstrated that acute intake of beetroot juice may show beneficial effects for patients with PAD.
Dietary nitrate, a substance that is naturally occurring in high concentrations in beets, has been a commonly investigated supplement for improving athletic performance. Recently, research has been performed to investigate the potential cardiovascular benefits for clinical populations. Members of Song-Young Park’s Vascular Research Lab at the University of Nebraska at Omaha recently performed a study that utilized a body mass-normalized dose of dietary nitrate in the form of beetroot juice for patients with PAD. Eleven patients with PAD (age: 70 ± 7 y) received a single moderate dose of dietary nitrate (0.11 mmol/kg) or placebo in a randomized crossover study design. Our group found that a moderate body mass-normalized dose of dietary nitrate in the form of beetroot juice can support endothelium-dependent vasodilation, reduce blood pressure, and improve walking capacity in patients with PAD.
“One of our major interests is understanding how we can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life in patients with PAD. These patients often suffer from leg pain (claudication) during walking, and this significantly affects their quality of life,” says Dr Park, the study’s senior author. “It is important to investigate nutritional methods that can enhance vascular function and walking capacity, which may ultimately improve overall well-being in in patients with PAD.”
Our results also pose potential clinical relevance. Exercise is commonly recommended by physicians as a therapy for patients with PAD to manage their symptoms, but these patients often cannot exercise well due to their leg pain. We found that dietary nitrate may serve as a beneficial nutrition intervention that can support clinical improvements in walking distance and time in patients with PAD.
We also saw clinically relevant improvements in endothelial function and reductions in blood pressure in response to this moderate dose, which may potentially play a role in delaying disease progression. Future research should investigate the long-term effects of dietary nitrate supplementation regimens with this moderate dose to understand its potential therapeutic effects to improve disease progression and quality of life in patients with PAD.
Liz Pekas, MS, CSCS, EP-C