Cliff Notes:
  • Beets are a root vegetable from the botanical family Chenopodiaceae that naturally grew along the costs of North Africa, Asia, and Europe. Excellent source of Vitamin B.
Brain Effects:
  • Beets contain a concentration of nitrates which research has shown to provide increased blood supply and oxygen to the brain; both increasing cognitive performance and potentially combatting the progression of dementia.
Poor blood flow and hypoxia/ischemia contribute to many disease states and may also be a factor in the decline of physical and cognitive function in aging. Nitrite has been discovered to be a vasodilator that is preferentially harnessed in hypoxia. Thus, both infused and inhaled nitrite are being studied as therapeutic agents for a variety of diseases. In addition, nitrite derived from nitrate in the diet has been shown to decrease blood pressure and improve exercise performance. Thus, dietary nitrate may also be important when increased blood flow in hypoxic or ischemic areas is indicated. These conditions could include age-associated dementia and cognitive decline. The goal of this study was to determine if dietary nitrate would increase cerebral blood flow in older adults.
In this investigation we administered a high vs. low nitrate diet to older adults (74.7 ± 6.9 years) and measured cerebral perfusion using arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging. We found that the high nitrate diet did not alter global cerebral perfusion, but did lead to increased regional cerebral perfusion in frontal lobe white matter, especially between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex.
These results suggest that dietary nitrate may be useful in improving regional brain perfusion in older adults in critical brain areas known to be involved in executive functioning. (1)
Acute effect of a high nitrate diet on brain perfusion in older adults. Tennille D. Presley,  Ashley R. Morgan, Erika Bechtold, William Clodfelter, Robin W. Dove, Janine M. Jennings, Robert A. Kraft, S. Bruce King, Paul J. Laurienti, W. Jack Rejeski,