Should Doctors prescribe Beetroot juice for blood pressure?

Ground breaking study—the first of its kind in a relevant population recommends beetroot supplementation as a safe and effective adjunct in blood pressure management.

A recent study published in Hypertension* an American Heart Association affiliated publication, showed that Beetroot juice is effective in lowering blood pressure in Hypertensive patients (i.e. people with high blood pressure). There have been many studies showing that even a single dose of beetroot is capable of lowering blood pressure in the immediate term in healthy volunteers with normal blood pressure. But this recent study is important because it shows that beetroot juice can be used safely and effectively in the management of blood pressure because it is the first study to be conducted in a clinically relevant population; i.e real blood pressure patients as opposed to healthy volunteers.

How does Beetroot lower Blood pressure?

Beetroot is a rich source of dietary nitrate. Nitrate is converted in the body to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide acts on the blood vessels to cause them to dilate (vasodilation). causes a decrease in blood pressure.

Your blood pressure is a product of the pumping effort of your heart, and the resistance provided by your blood vessels.

When the blood vessels dilate, there is less total resistance in the transport network of blood vessels that the heart needs to pump against to delivery blood and oxygen to tissues. It is this decrease in resistance that causes a decrease in blood pressure.

The Research

Design: A randomized, phase 2, double-blind, placebo-controlled study (clinical evidence level 1b).

Method: 68 patients were randomly split between two groups. One group received daily dietary supplementation of nitrate (in the form of 250L beetroot juice) for 4 weeks. The other group received 250mL of placebo nitrate-free beetroot juice. Patients were aged between 18-85 years and all had high blood pressure.

The study found that daily supplementation with beetroot juice was associated with reduction in blood pressure (by about 7 points [7mmHg]. There was no evidence of a reduction in the effectiveness of beetroot juice on blood pressure reduction over the 4 week study period. The study also indicated that endothelial function improved by 20% and arterial stiffness was reduced after the beetroot supplementation; but found no change in the placebo group. Beetroot juice supplementation caused no adverse side effects.

The study shows “the first evidence of durable BP reduction with dietary nitrate supplementation in a relevant patient group”- (remember we said earlier that many studies have shown the beneficial effects of beetroot on blood pressure regulation but these have been conducted in healthy people with normal blood pressure).

The study concluded that “a role for dietary nitrate as an affordable, readily-available, adjunctive treatment in the management of patients with hypertension”. In the research box above, we see that this is a well designed study with a high level of clinical evidence. For this level of evidence, the recommendation is that clinicians change practice to include study findings. It follows, that recommending beetroot juice as part of blood pressure management is an evidence based, best practice approach.

Important Notice

At Green Health Line we do not in any way advocate patients stopping their medication without consulting their physician. This is a summary of the most recent evidence and research regarding the subject. Trialling beetroot juice supplementation under the supervision of your physician as an additional lifestyle measure; alongside reducing salt intake, weight loss, and exercise is a reasonable start point. 

*REFERENCE

This study was funded by the British heart foundation and published in the American Heart Association affiliated journal hypertension

Kapil V, Khambata RS, Robertson A, Caulfield MJ. (2015) Dietary nitrate provides sustained blood pressure lowering in hypertensive patients: a randomized, phase 2, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Hypertension. 65 (2); 320-7

Onion boosts Sex hormone levels new study finds

Study shows rats have more sex with onion. And so could you–

A 2014 study[1] published in the Journal of Experimental medicine and biology found that onion juice promoted testosterone production in male rats.

What is testosterone?

Testosterone is the male sex hormone. It has many important functions in the male body including sperm production, sex drive regulation, potency, body hair growth, and muscle and bone strength.


What causes low testosterone?

Many things can affect the testosterone levels in the body. Medications commonly affect testosterone levels, and this is shown in the study discussed in this article. Antidepressants and antipsychotic medications are well known for their ability to affect sex drive and potency because of their effect on testosterone levels.

Other causes include aging, injury to the testicles, testicular cancer or chemotherapy, congenital defects, or a deficiency of hormones produced in parts of the brain.

What happens if testosterone levels are too low?

Low testosterone can lead to less erections, longer time to gaining erection, less firm erections, lowered sex drive, general weakness and tiredness, difficulty concentrating, and low mood.

Onion (Allium cepa) has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. Thought to have been grown originally in Asia, it is used today throughout the world more for its flavour than its therapeutic properties.Onions have been shown to have healing properties.  They contain many key substances; Quercetain (useful in Hayfever and seasonal allergies), mustard oils, and sulphur containing compounds. Onion can contribute to lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and reduce clot formation. Onion is often useful as an expectorant  (used to expel phlegm) to help ease symptoms of coughs and colds.

The Research – Onions boost testosterone and sexual function in the rat model

The study looked at the effect of onion juice on sexual behaviour in two populations of male rats. The first population included potent male rats and the second population looked at male rats who had been rendered impotent by being given the antidepressant Paroxetine.

The study found that onion juice had a remarkable effect on the rats’ sexual behaviour. Onion juice reduced sex-free intervals, and increased the intercourse efficacy of potent male rats.

Even more interestingly, onion juice reduced the ejaculatory latency period caused by paroxetine. I.e. The antidepressant paroxetine prolonged the time delay between periods of being able to ejaculate (longer down time after each sexual encouter).  Onion juice also increased the number of ejaculating rats. This begs the question–is onion juice a possible remedy for erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and reduced libido?

The study also showed that testosterone levels were significantly increased  in rats after onion juice administration. It also showed that there was a significant drop in testosterone levels following administration of the antidepressant paroxetine–BUT that this lowered testoserone level could be returned to normal levels simply with onion juice supplementation!

Ancient WisdomCulpeper tells us in his Complete Herball of 1653:

Mars owns them, and they have gotten this quality, to draw any corruption to them, for if you peel one, and lay it upon a dunghill, you shall find it rotten in half a day by drawing putrefaction to it; then being bruised and applied to a plague sore, it is very probable it will do the like…Onions are flatulent yet they do somewhat provoke appetite, increase thirst,,,provoke womens courses…increase sperm, especially the seed of them… 

 

REFERENCES and SOURCES

1. Allouh MZ, Daradkha HM. (2014) Fresh onion juice enhanced copulatory behavior in male rats with and without paroxetine-induced sexual dysfunction. Experimental biology and medicine. 239(2);177-82

Snyder PJ. Chapter 41. Androgens. In: Brunton LL, Chabner BA, Knollmann BC. eds. Goodman & Gilman’s The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 12e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2011.http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com.ezproxy.uws.edu.au/content.aspx?bookid=374&Sectionid=41266250. Accessed July 20, 2015.

Culpeper, N. 1653. The English Physitian and Complete Herball. London

Sharon, M. 2014. The complete guide to Nutrients. London: Prion books

World Health Organisation labels processed meat a Carcinogen

Last month, over twenty leading scientists from across the globe met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in France to review the evidence and determine the effects of red meat consumption and processed meat consumption on cancer risk.

The experts assessed over 800 studies that looked at the relationship between over a dozen different cancers and the consumption of processed and red meat. The research studies spanned many different countries and populations, and included diverse diets. The bulk of evidence came from large quality studies carried out over the past two decades.

Processed meats like sausages and bacon can be treated in different ways; salting, fermentation, smoking and curing. These processes (particularly smoking and curing) can introduce carcinogenic substances to the meat; N-nitroso-compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Cooking at high temperatures can also produce carcinogens such as heterocyclic aromatic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is the cancer agency of the World Health Organisation (WHO). In a startling new report, IARC have classified processed meat as carcinogenic to humans because of strong evidence linking consumption to the development of colorectal cancer. There was also an association between processed meat consumption and stomach cancer risk.

Researchers estimated that every 50g portion of processed meat consumed daily would increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer by 18 percent! Though the risk at the individual level is small, it increases with the quantity of processed meat consumed. From a public health perspective the study findings could not be more important. In light of the large and ever increasing number of people who routinely consume processed meat, the findings have strong implications for global cancer incidence if taken into account by individuals, governments and health care practitioners.

Steak over sausage?—What about unprocessed red meat?

This recent review of available global data has led the World Health Organisation to classify red meat consumption as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

The IARC category of “probably carcinogenic to humans” also lists the chemotherapy agents cisplatin and etoposide, and the antibiotic chloramphenicol. More surprisingly, also listed in this category are shift work (that disrupts sleeping patterns), working as a hairdresser/barber (due to occupational exposures), and emissions from high temperature frying (aka cooking oil fumes).

The decision to classify red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans” was based on a review of all the relevant data which highlighted strong mechanistic evidence for a carcinogenic effect related to consumption. The increased cancer risk was mainly observed for colorectal cancer, but also pancreatic and prostate cancer. Although more difficult to estimate the increased risk posed by red meat consumption compared to processed meat consumption due to confounding factors, IARC postulated that if a causal relationship were to be categorically proven, then for every 100g portion of red meat eaten daily, the risk for colorectal cancer could increase by 17%.

Interestingly, high red meat consumption in pre-menopausal women has also been associated with a higher risk for developing breast cancer.

Global trends—How much meat do we eat?

Global meat consumption varies greatly depending on country. In some countries meat is eaten by less than 5% whereas in others it is close to 100%. Processed meat consumption varies also, from less than 2% to about 65%. Most people who consume red meat eat about 50-100g per day. According to the study, high consumption was classified as greater than 200g per person per day.

More evidence

  • In a 2011 report, The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) estimated that approximately 45% of colorectal cancer cases could be prevented if people consumed more fiber-rich plant foods, consumed less meat and alcohol, became more physically active, and maintained a healthy weight.
  • The World Cancer Research Fund/AICR Continuous Update Project, indicated that there was convincing evidence linking diets high in red and processed meat to increased colorectal risk
  • The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II has specifically recommended limiting consumption of red and processed meat since 2002.

Corporate interests: Unsurprisingly, the IARC WHO report findings were not welcomed by the meat industry which criticised the findings as lacking common sense and being “unscientific”.

Take home messages: Eliminate processed meats best you can, and limit red meat consumption. Eat organic, ethically grown meat to reduce your environmental footprint, and to enjoy the benefits of meat not pumped full of antibiotics, hormones, and GMO crop feed. A recent study analysing meat samples found 15% contained strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria. It is often said that one third of the crops grown on Earth are used to feed animals. Scandalous in an age where people still starve to death.

REFERENCES

Bouvard, V. Loomis, D. Guyton, K. (2015) Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat. Lancet Oncol. Published online ahead of print: October 26, 2015