Previous research has shown that blood vessels tend to contract at high altitude. So, the next time you plan a high altitude trip, do not forget to carry a bottle of beetroot juice in your backpack. Researchers have now found that nitrate-rich beetroot juice helps the body acclimatize more quickly and thoroughly at high altitude. The findings showed that drinking beet juice can help you beat acute mountain sickness, caused by lower air pressures at high altitude which affect the ability of our bodies to take up oxygen.
The study's corresponding author Svein Erik Gaustad, from Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), said, "It may be the extra boost your body needs to deliver enough oxygen to your tired muscles and keep you healthy when you are climbing a high mountain."
The research team of Norwegian and Swedish investigators decided to study how nitrate-rich beet juice might affect acclimatization on a 39-day expedition to Kathmandu and at 3,700 meters in the Rolwaling Valley, Nepal. Researchers decided to see if they could improve blood vessel function at high altitude simply by having test subjects drink beet juice. The team measured blood vessel function with a standard test of arterial endothelial function, a flow-mediated dilatation test (FMD) that uses ultrasound.
In the study the researchers observed that consumption of organic nitrate-rich beet juice restored reduced blood vessel function at high altitude. The study participants were investigated after drinking two types of beet juice with a 24-hour break between tests. The study revealed that beet juice with high amounts of nitrate made the blood vessels relax and return to normal function, while beet juice with no nitrate (the placebo) did not have any effect.
The study was published in Nitric Oxide: Biology and Chemistry.