Drinking certain tuber juice promotes a mix of oral bacteria associated with healthier blood vessels and brain function, according to a new study of people ages 70 to 80.
Certain foods, such as lettuce, spinach, and celery, are rich in inorganic nitrate, and many oral bacteria play a role in converting nitrate to nitric oxide, which helps regulate blood vessels and neurotransmission or chemical messages in the brain.
Older people tend to have lower nitric oxide production, and this is associated with poorer vascular (blood vessel) and cognitive (brain) health.
In a new study from the University of Exeter, 26 healthy older people participated in two 10-day supplementation periods – one with nitrate-rich beet juice and one with nitrate-free placebo juice, which they drank twice daily.
The results, published in Redox biology, showed higher levels of bacteria associated with good vascular and cognitive health, and lower levels of bacteria related to disease and inflammation.
Systolic blood pressure dropped on average five points (mmHg) after drinking the beet juice.
“We are really excited about these findings, which have important implications for healthy aging,” said lead author Professor Anni Vanhatalo, University of Exeter.
“Previous studies have compared the oral bacteria of young and old, and healthy people compared to those with diseases, but ours is the first to test the nitrate-rich diet in this way.
“Our findings suggest that adding nitrate-rich foods to the diet, in this case via beet juice, for just ten days can substantially alter the oral microbiome (mix of bacteria) for the better.
“Maintaining this healthy oral microbiome in the long term could slow down the negative vascular and cognitive changes associated with aging.”
“Our participants were healthy, active older people with generally good blood pressure,” emphasized Professor Vanhatalo. “The nitrate in the diet lowered their blood pressure on average, and we are anxious to know if the same would happen in other age groups and among people with poorer health.
“We are working with colleagues at the University of Exeter School of Medicine to investigate interactions between oral bacteria and cognition to better understand how diet could be used to delay cognitive decline in old age.”
Much research has been done on the benefits of a healthy gut microbiome, but much less is known about the oral microbial community, which plays a crucial role in nitrate “activation” from a plant-rich diet.
This is all hopeful news and a good reminder to try to ensure a rich and varied diet – a diet that perhaps includes a little more beet juice than we would otherwise think to drink?
Source: University of Exeter