A couple months ago I posted some food for thought on the benefits of beetroot for both athletes and the general population. The key point focused on the nitrate content of beetroot and the effect of nitrate on improving blood supply and subsequent muscle function. I was recently contacted for a little more information on this and would like to pass on an anecdotal testimony.
The news comes from none other than my Gramps, the same avid reader who inspired my post on the benefits of berries! He had a few issues with blood supply that was causing calf and foot pain on light exercise which was diagnosed (as intermittent claudication I have assumed) and he started medical treatment. At the same time he started consuming beetroot daily, but his own research showed a required dosage of 500 ml of beetroot juice per day, which is quite a lot to try get in that regularly. So how much is enough to bring about some improvements?
The 500 ml I mention is the amount that was used in positive athletic studies, enough to provide a little more than 6 mmol of nitrate. This amount is usually taken 2-3 hours before competition. It appears that in the untrained population fairly consistent benefits on blood pressure and muscle function are shown at around 5.5 mmol, which equates to roughly 340 mg of nitrate. Whole beetroot will give you about 2500 mg per kg, thus one would need 136 g. Unfortunately whole food sources are not very consistent with these values but this is a nice guide to follow nonetheless. Supplementation with nitrate as an alternative does have a few nasty side effects so whole food is definitely the way to go. There may also be other not-yet-understood influences of other phytochemicals present in these whole foods providing some of the benefit. Other foods that have similar levels of nitrates include celery, lettuce, spinach and rocket. Aim for 150-250 g of these foods to get the dosage needed.
After a month of medical treatment and an increased intake of nitrates through the diet my Gramps has improved significantly to a point of little or no pain or numbness. I find this of great interest. I am not advocating that one approach would have been as successful without the other but I am passing on this information to anyone interested. Always follow your doctors medical advice, but as Hippocrates knew food can be thy medicine, or at least part of it.