Beetroot: amortize/flickr

THANK you dear Libby Purvis for having Italian chef Antonio Carlucci on to talk about beetroot recipes in your BBC Radio4 show, Midweek, (Wednesday 9 November)!

The recipes feature in his BBC TV Great British Food Revival Series 2, programme-7: Beetroot & Currants.  On Midweek, he mentioned an Exeter University study (UK) where cyclists are being fed the stuff (beetroot juice, packed with betalains and nitrates) to improve performance.

Well here in this blog, for your delectation, is the link to the actual research!  We have it on our public health database Global Health, and you can read the detailed summary with the URL I have provided. There you will see that just (!) O.5 litre beetroot juice, was taken 2.5 hours before cycling. The result? The juice increased power output, a measure of performance, in both 4km (up by 2.7%) and 16.1 km (up by 2.8%) cycling time trials.I know you will be glad to see that for completeness, I’ve also included an earlier blog about beetroot’s ability to reduce blood pressure (“Beetroot with everything”)!

Carlucci made no mention of beetroot wine: my Grandad made an excellent sherry substitute from beetroot & fooled me for years about its origins. (Not Jerez, Spain but backgarden Mitcham, UK)

As ever, such quirky facts set me off to see what else was on Global Health. I came across an interesting Polish study on the use of betalain to reduce the discomfort and pain of osteoarthritis. This is very close to home for me as my mother has suffered from this progressive disease for over 40 years. Since I seem to have inherited osteoporosis through her, I may well be due for osteoarthritis too; and so I am delighted to find I can reduce the pain by eating one of my favourite veggies, beetroot.

Mind you I may well opt for an extract as I don’t particularly fancy having red urine which some people can get after consuming fresh beetroot.  Known as Beeturia, it’s harmless but alarming!

The study used a commercial extract & to match it, I’ve worked out that roughly I’d need to eat 2 beetroot a day. With the extract, you need 70 mg, twice a day, for 10 days to achieve 41% pain reduction: apparently you notice relief as early as day 3, and achieve 33% pain reduction after day 5.  I really don’t want to turn into one of your other guests, Arlene Phillips the choreographer, with my daily box of beets sitting in my dressing room.  And I suspect that I can’t get it drinking beetroot wine: shame…

Really excellent program Libby. Hope my other readers caught it.

Further reading and useful links

Acute dietary nitrate supplementation improves cycling time trial performance

Influence of betalain-rich extract on reduction of discomfort associated with osteoarthritis
(available to Global Health subscribers and to subscribers to Global Health Knowledge base free e-newsletter. So why not sign up to the e-newsletter here!)

Relevant blogs

Beetroot with everything

(If you don’t know who Arlene is, then you’ve missed out: creator of 1970’s dance troupe Hot Gossip, choreographer to numerous theatre shows & pop-videos, & that judge who was infamously booted off UK’s celebrity talent show Strictly Come Dancing in 2009).

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