Beetroot Juice Improves COPD Patients' Exercise Potential

An unlikely remedy, beetroot juice, was found to improve chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients' exercise performance.

An unlikely remedy, beetroot juice, was found to improve chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients’ exercise performance.

In a small study, researchers from Wake Forest University in NC administered a placebo or nitrate (NO3) rich beetroot juice to 15 COPD patients prior to exercise. The placebo, which was prune juice, was used as it had similar quantities of carbohydrates, sugars, and fats as beetroot juice, but lacked NO3, according to a press release.

"The intent of this study was to determine if acute ingestion of beetroot juice, which is rich with nitrates, prior to exercising could improve the exercise capacity of COPD patients," the study’s primary investigator and lead author, Michael Berry, said.

For the first part of a total of 4 experiments, researchers evaluated the participants’ pulmonary function, conducted a medical assessment, and their maximum exercise capacity through a bicycle test. The second stage required patients’ lung volume and pulmonary function to be measure as well as using an exercise bicycle at 75% of their maximum capacity. For the last 2 parts of the study, the COPD patients were given either prune or beetroot juice 2-and-a-half hours before researchers measured heir exercise capacity, the release pointed out.

In Nitric Oxide, the researchers reported that adding NO3 to the COPD patients’ diet not only improved their exercise function, but increased their plasma NO3 and nitrite (NO2) levels and lowered their blood pressure.

“Median (+interquartile range) exercise time was significantly longer (p = 0.031) following the ingestion of beetroot versus placebo (375.0 + 257.0 vs. 346.2 + 148.0 s, respectively),” the authors noted.

"One of the benefits of exercise is that if you get positive results, you're more likely to continue doing it. If beetroot juice positively impacts those results, it could motivate COPD patients to continue to be physically active and improve their health," Berry said.

Due to the small sample size, the researchers anticipated using grant money to conduct a similar trial with a larger applicant pool.