The next time you plan a high altitude trip, don’t forget to carry a bottle of beetroot juice in your backpack. Researchers have found that nitrate-rich beetroot juice helps the body acclimatise more quickly and thoroughly at high altitude.
Drinking beet juice can help you beat acute mountain sickness, caused by lower air pressures at high altitude which affect the ability of our bodies to take up oxygen, the findings showed.
"It may be the extra boost your body needs to deliver enough oxygen to your tired muscles and keep you healthy when you are climbing a high mountain," said the study’s corresponding author Svein Erik Gaustad, from Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
The team of Norwegian and Swedish researchers decided to see how nitrate-rich beet juice might affect acclimatisation on a 39-day expedition to Kathmandu and at 3,700 metres in the Rolwaling Valley, Nepal.
Previous research had shown that blood vessels tend to contract at high altitude, so researchers decided to see if they could improve blood vessel function at high altitude simply by having test subjects drink beet juice.
They measured blood vessel function with a standard test of arterial endothelial function, a flow-mediated dilatation test (FMD) that uses ultrasound.
In the study the researchers showed that consumption of organic nitrate-rich beet juice restored reduced blood vessel function at high altitude.
The participants were investigated after drinking two types of beet juice with a 24-hour break between tests.
The study showed that beet juice with high amounts of nitrate made the blood vessels relax and return to normal function, while beet juice with no nitrate (the placebo) did not have any effect.
The study was published in the journal Nitric Oxide: Biology and Chemistry.