A study published in Circulation: Heart Failure shows that drinking concentrated beet juice may boost muscle power in patients with heart failure.
Building on a growing body of work that suggests dietary nitrate improves muscle performance in many elite athletes, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis wanted to explore if drinking concentrated beet juice—also high in nitrates—would increase muscle power in patients with heart failure.The scientists reported data from nine patients with heart failure. Two hours after the treatment, the patients demonstrated a 13% increase in power in muscles that extend the knee. The researchers observed the most substantial benefit when the muscles moved at the highest velocities. The increase in muscle performance was significant in quick, power-based actions, but researchers saw no improvements in performance during longer tests that measure muscle fatigue.
Patients in the study served as their own controls, with each receiving the beet juice treatment and an identical beet juice placebo that had only the nitrate content removed. There was a 1–2 week period between sessions to be sure any effects of the first treatment did not carry over to the second. Neither the trial participants nor the investigators knew the order in which patients received the treatment and placebo beet juice.
The researchers also pointed out that participants experienced no major side effects from the beet juice, including no increase in heart rates or drops in blood pressure, which is important in patients with heart failure.
"One problem in aging is the muscles get weaker, slower and less powerful," said study's corresponding author, Andrew R. Coggan, assistant professor of radiology. "Beyond a certain age, people lose about 1% per year of their muscle function. If we can boost muscle power like we did in this study that could provide a significant benefit to older individuals."