We're always eager to learn about food and drinks that may help us live a longer, healthier life. According to a recent study from the University of Exeter, that drink may be beet juice. In the study, 26 healthy adults took part in two 10-day assessments; first, they drank nitrate-rich beetroot juice for 10 days and then supplemented with a nitrate-free placebo juice, which they drank twice a day for another 10-day period. Health assessments were conducted after each 10 day period and revealed that higher levels of bacteria found in beetroot juice were associated with good vascular and cognitive health, and lower levels of bacteria were linked to disease and inflammation.
According to Professor Anni Vanhatalo of the University of Exeter, who was the lead author of the study, this is the first test of its kind. "Previous studies have compared the oral bacteria of young and older people, and healthy people compared to those with diseases, but ours is the first to test nitrate-rich diet in this way. Our findings suggest that adding nitrate-rich foods to the diet—in this case via beetroot juice—for just ten days can substantially alter the oral microbiome (mix of bacteria) for the better," she said in a statement.
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All of the participants in the study were healthy, active older adults with low blood pressure. Health experts say that maintaining a healthy oral microbiome may slow down cardiovascular and cognitive impairment with age. More research is needed to fully understand the role that a nitrate-rich, vegetable-forward diet plays in oral health, but previous studies clearly indicate that there is a connection between gut health and dietary nitrates.
"We are working with colleagues in the University of Exeter Medical School to investigate interactions between the oral bacteria and cognition to better understand how diet could be used to delay cognitive decline in older age," said Professor Vanhatalo.