Evidence has come from recent research at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem in the US. The short trial conducted over four days involved a group of elderly respondents who were fed a diet either high or low in nitrates. The “within subject” design of the procedure meant that each participant was given both diets and the effects of each diet on their blood flow was compared.
Nitrates are present in beetroot and many other vegetables. In the body they are converted into nitrites to increase blood flow which benefits the brain tremendously. The respondents’ speed of blood flow to different parts of the brain was measured on a scan. It was found that blood flow to certain areas in the brain increased on a high nitrate diet as compared to one low in nitrates.
The study was divided into two parts. The aim of the preliminary study conducted on five people over 70 was to test the time taken for a high nitrate meal to be converted in the blood to peak levels of nitrite. It was followed by a larger study carried out on 14 participants aged 70 or older. People who took certain medications or suffered from particular disorders were excluded from the trial.
However, scientists are cautious about coming to definite conclusions from this research, which was conducted on a small sample and over a very short timescale. Further studies will be needed to ascertain whether a diet rich in nitrates is sufficient to combat dementia or improve brain function.
The researchers say that nitrite is proved to widen blood vessels and increase blood flow. Due to this there are hopes it can become a good treatment for a wide range of diseases.They maintain that nitrite has many health benefits which include lowering blood pressure, improved gut health and better ability to sustain exercise.