Beets May Slow Down the Effects of Alzheimer’s

Packed with nutritional value, beets are known to offer a wide range of health benefits. This prehistoric food provides your body with fiber, vitamin C, potassium, manganese, iron, and an array of other vitamins and minerals. Known to lower blood pressure and boost immunity, beets may also benefit the brain.

Recently making headlines, a compound in beetroot may help to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s. This promising discovery is the first step, but the researchers hope that their findings will encourage other scientists to study similar molecular structures.

Beet Compound May Slow the Accumulation of Misfolded Proteins

Known for their distinctive deep red color, beets contain a compound that is responsible for its unique coloration. It is this compound that has recently caught the attention of researchers.

This week, scientists from the University of South Florida are presenting their findings at the 255th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. Being the world’s largest scientific society, this meeting will feature over 13,000 presentations, across a range of scientific topics.

The compound of interest is betanin, which is found in beet extract. Showing promise as a potential inhibitor of certain chemical reactions involved in the development of Alzheimer’s, this compound may prevent the misfolding of proteins and in turn, the oxidation of neurons.

As stated by Darrell Cole Cerrato, a graduate assistant from USF, “Although we cannot say that betanin completely stops the misfolding of proteins, we can say that it reduces oxidation.” Since less oxidation prevents the misfolding of proteins, this could potentially slow down the formation of beta-amyloid.

Beets and Your Brain

This recent discovery is not the first in regards to beets beneficial effect on the brain. In fact, beets have been shown to boost gray matter in the brain during exercise. This is due to another compound, known as nitrates. Once ingested, the body turns nitrate into nitrite.

In a study, conducted by researchers from Wake Forest University, it was found that middle-aged men and women suffering from high blood pressure benefited from beet juice. Being given either beet juice or a placebo before exercising, those who consumed beets showcased significantly higher nitric oxide levels.

In turn, this increased oxygen levels and blood flow in the body. Since nitric oxide goes to areas of the body that need oxygen, this molecule offers powerful benefits for the brain. After all, brain cells are extremely sensitive to decreases in oxygen. The brain also uses approximately three times as much oxygen as muscles do.

This is why beets are ideal when aiming to lower blood pressure and improve endurance. Nitrates can also be found in spinach, celery, watercress, cabbage, arugula, collard greens, parsley, leeks, and fennel.

Lowering Your Blood Pressure Can Significantly Reduce Your Risk of Neurodegenerative Conditions

Since beets have been shown to have a profound effect on blood pressure, it is important to note the relationship between high blood pressure and dementia. A commonly investigated vascular risk factor, numerous longitudinal studies have shown a connection between high blood pressure and the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Although this relationship is controversial, uncontrolled blood pressure does weaken your brain’s blood vessels, leading to a potential rupture or leak. In addition, high blood pressure can cause the formation of blood clots. Once blood flow is blocked, a stroke may result.

If blood vessels are damaged, this will also reduce the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the brain. In this case, you may eventually suffer from vascular dementia, which is the second most common form of dementia. Commonly associated with a stroke, you can read more about this type of dementia here.

To better assess your current level of cognition in relation to potential early warning signs of Alzheimer’s, you can access the BrainTest app in the comfort of your home. You can learn more about the testing process and begin your free trial here.

Tips to Reduce Your Risk of High Blood Pressure

Preventing high blood pressure begins with your lifestyle. When you actively improve your health, you will also reduce your risk of dementia. Implement the following tips in order to prevent or improve your current blood pressure levels:

  • Diet — Limit the amount of salt you consume and focus on a fiber-rich, whole food diet. Refer to this list of foods provided by the Heart Foundation to actively intervene. It is also important that you cut down on caffeine and consume plenty of water.

  • Alcohol Intake — Limit your intake of alcohol to 14 units or less a week. High in calories, heavy alcohol consumption also contributes to weight gain, contributing to rising blood pressure. If you are currently overweight, your heart will need to work harder in order to pump blood throughout your body. Create an actionable plan to lose excess weight.

  • Exercise more often — Physical activity is critical for optimal health, especially in terms of vascular risk factors. Whether you begin gardening more often or learn to play tennis, adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly. However, if possible, aim for 30 minutes daily.

  • Quit Smoking — If you currently smoke, this significantly increases your risk of a stroke or heart attack. Causing your arteries to narrow, this habit significantly increases your risk of lung and heart disease.

For more information on nutrition, please read: Green Vegetables Help Keep Elderly Brains ‘Younger’

Krista Hillis has a B.A.Sc degree, specializing in neuroscience and psychology. She is actively involved in the mental health and caregiving community, aiming to help others. Krista is also passionate about nutrition and the ways in which lifestyle choices affect and influence the human brain.

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