Beets have been shown to fight inflammation, lower blood pressure1,2 and aid detoxification. Studies also suggest they can help lower your risk for heart failure and stroke, and provide powerful benefits for your brain, largely due to their high nitrate content. Your body transforms nitrates into nitric oxide,3 which enhances oxygenation and has beneficial impacts on your circulatory and immune systems.
Nitric oxide4 is a soluble gas continually produced from the amino acid L-arginine inside your cells, where it supports endothelial function and protects your mitochondria. Nitric oxide also serves as a signaling or messenger molecule in every cell of your body. Many competitive athletes actually use beet juice for its nitric oxide-boosting benefits. Research shows raw beets may increase stamina during exercise by as much as 16 percent,5 courtesy of its nitric oxide boost.
Beets May Protect Against Development of Alzheimer’s Disease
Now, research presented at the 2018 American Chemical Society’s meeting6 in New Orleans claims beets may also be a powerful ally in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease,7,8 the most severe and lethal form of dementia. As reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:9
“First they examined the possible cause of the condition. Although it’s unknown, doctors have previously pinpointed beta-amyloid, a sticky protein that can disrupt communication between the brain cells and neurons. When it clings to metals, such as copper or iron, the beta-amyloid peptides misfold and clump together, causing inflammation and oxidation.
Therefore, the scientists targeted foods known to improve oxygen flow and cognitive functions, including beets. The purple veggie has a compound called betanin that binds to metals, which could prevent the misfold of the peptides. To test their hypothesis, the scientists measured oxidation levels of the beta-amyloid when it was mixed with a betanin mixture, and they found that oxidation decreased by up to 90 percent exposed to the beet compound.
Preventing Oxidation Stunts Beta-Amyloid Clustering
When clusters of beta-amyloid form, it triggers brain inflammation and oxidation of neurons, and researchers believe this oxidation is what causes irreparable damage to the brain cells. Oxidation is particularly severe when the beta-amyloid is bound to copper. In this experiment, oxidation was largely prevented when betanin from beets were added to the mix.
As noted by coauthor Darrell Cole Cerrato,10 "We can't say that betanin stops the misfolding [of amyloid beta] completely, but we can say that it reduces oxidation. Less oxidation could prevent misfolding to a certain degree, perhaps even to the point that it slows the aggregation of beta-amyloid peptides …”
While the researchers hope their finding will lead to the development of better Alzheimer’s drugs, there’s really no reason to wait for such developments, seeing how Alzheimer’s is primarily a disease predicated on diet and lifestyle. Indeed, in his presentation of the findings (see featured video), Cerrato notes that this is yet another piece of information people can use to improve their eating habits and lower their risk of disease:
“In an age where people are trying to look more at what they’re consuming and what they’re eating … this is another source of data people can use … [W]e’re trying to get you to do the same thing your mother was trying to get you to do when you were a kid, which is eat your vegetables … I think this will be a good step forward in looking at how we can preventatively treat Alzheimer’s.”