(Medical Xpress)—Athletes competing this summer have benefited from an unlikely ingredient to fuel their Olympic and Paralympic success.
Professor Andy Jones of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter has uncovered the properties of beetroot juice in boosting athletes' stamina.
Wheelchair athlete David Weir has revealed to the UK media that beetroot juice helped him to win four gold medals in the Paralympic Games. Team GB and Olympic and Paralympic athletes from other countries, including the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands, also used the bright purple juice in their preparations over the summer.
In a series of studies, Professor Jones and his colleagues in Sport and Health Sciences and the University of Exeter Medical School have shown that drinking beetroot juice boosts stamina. Their research explains how the high levels of nitrate contained in beetroot juice makes exercise less tiring so athletes can keep going for longer. The nitrates are converted into nitric oxide in the body, which widens blood vessels and reduces the amount of oxygen needed by muscles.
Further research from Professor Jones' lab has shown the specific benefits for cyclists and has also revealed that the juice lowers blood pressure and may improve exercise performance in older people.
Professor Andy Jones said: "This has been a fantastic summer for British sport and it is really exciting and rewarding to think that our research may have played a small part in that success. We now intend to investigate the possible benefits of dietary nitrate supplementation in people with cardiovascular, respiratory or metabolic diseases."
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