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Beetlejuice? Oh, Beet Juice! Lowers Blood Pressure

Posted Apr 17 2013 3:00am
As I was reading this small short proof of concept study published in early online in Heart , all I could think of Tim Burton's 1988 movie, Beetlejuice .  No relation whatsoever, just a random association on my part.  Such is the hazard of reading late at night.  In any case, I'm not fond of natural for the sake of natural.  Many patients seem to want some medication just because it's natural or herbal or organic, as if that, in and of itself, automatically makes it better than any available synthetic.  Of course, they also tend to overlook the fact that unless they're consuming the original plant or animal in its original form, the product in pill form was synthesized from said natural or herbal or organic beginnings.  As an example of the silliness of this natural movement, would you be willing to wipe your bottom w/poison oak or poison ivy?  I thought not.

In any case, the bigger reason for my disinterest in these natural or herbal or organic substances is the lack of published peer-reviewed evidence.  The counter-argument is that Big Pharma won't support this research because they can't patent these products and thus can't profit from them.  Fair enough, but that's where the government steps in via the National Institutes of Health and others of its ilk.  As the story goes, the NIH has nothing to gain except to promote health via sound science.  

So along those lines, let me direct your attention back to the aforementioned study of 8 women & 7 men avg 53yo w/blood pressure >140/90mm Hg who'd never been prescribed any blood pressure lowering medication.  They were randomized to either 250mL of beet juice or water.  The former had an amount of nitrite that had previously been demonstrated to make no difference in normotensive participants.  And yet, in these hypertensive participants, those who received single dose ~8oz of beet juice saw their systolic blood pressures drop by 8.5mm Hg compared to placebo while diastolic blood pressures dropped by an even more impressive 9.6mm Hg.

Now, don't jump to any conclusions since this was only a single dose trial in barely a dozen participants.  But if you're looking to go native, this might be good place to start.  Maybe this will become the next fad diet!  As always, be sure to include your family doc in what you're doing.  After all, we wouldn't want you to pass out!  By the way, in case you don't have a hankering for beets, consider eating other fruits & vegetables rich in nitrites.
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