Research & Your Health is a series of articles written in accessible, everyday language, focused on the latest scientific research of natural health products.
On September 10, 2015
Background: The health benefits of fruits and vegetables are becoming increasingly well known. Many of these fruits and vegetables have been used in herbal medicine for centuries, and continue to be used today. For the last few decades the red beetroot has been scientifically researched to shed some light on its specific values as well as the mechanism of its health promoting benefits.
Objective: The aim of this study was to discuss the bioavailability of beetroot as well as its effect on oxidative stress, inflammation, endothelial function and cognitive function.
Methods: This study was a literature review. Studies which examined the effect of beetroot supplementation on conditions such as oxidative stress, inflammation, endothelial function and cognitive function were included.
Results: Studies related to cellular oxidative stress showed that beetroot can have an antioxidant effect, thereby reducing oxidative stress which can be a precursor to many chronic diseases. Studies indicated that supplementing through a juice form seemed to have the most powerful effects. Beetroot seems to interfere with pro-inflammatory pathways, thereby providing an anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
These results are mostly shown in vitro (outside of the body), and there are few which have shown this effect in vivo (inside the body). Some of these initial in vivo studies do show promise for an effect on cancer tumour growth.
Preliminary studies examining cognitive decline in older adults suggest that beetroot supplementation through juice over 14 days had significantly improved reaction time in comparison to a control group.
Conclusion: Although the body of literature is still young, beetroot appears to have the potential to be a powerful source of health promoting factors such as antioxidants, anti-inflammatories as well as having a vascular–protective effect. This makes it increasingly popular in the nutritional approach to manage cardiovascular disease and cancer. Beetroot juice also seems to have a positive effect on cognitive function in the elderly.
Findings in Perspective: Based on the findings of the limited number of studies, beetroot seems to be a promising area of research. Beetroot supplementation could be beneficial in cancer, as well as cardiovascular disease because of its anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects.
Because of its relatively low cost, it could have economic benefits as well. Other possible benefits of beetroot which are still unexplored but promising are in the areas of pain reduction, cognitive function, insulin resistance, cancer and inflammation.