BACTERIA in the mouth and gut help convert inorganic nitrate in vegetables into nitric oxide, which is vital for cardiovascular and cognitive health.
A new study in older people suggests that drinking beetroot juice, which is rich in inorganic nitrate, promotes the growth of oral bacteria that are associated with these benefits.
These bacteria show promise as a means to reduce age-related declines in cardiovascular and cognitive health.
Previous research has shown the community of bacteria and other microorganisms that lives in our gut, known as the gut microbi-otaTrusted Source, to affect our health and well-being in a multitude of ways, many of them positive.
Much of the information on the bacteria that make their home in our mouths, however, focuses on gum disease and its knock-on inflammatory effects around the body.
The role of oral bacteria in producing nitric oxide, which benefits cardiovascular and cognitive health, is much less well-known.
Many species of oral bacteria convert the inorganic nitrateTrusted Source in vegetables into nitrite.
Nitrite is a precursor for nitric oxide, a signaling molecule that dilates blood vessels and transmits messages between neurons in the brain.
In older people, reduced availability of nitric oxide may contribute to hypertension (high blood pressure) and a decline in cognitive function.
A new study suggests that drinking beetroot juice, which is rich in inorganic nitrate, can alter the balance of bacteria in the mouth in favor of species that promote better cognitive and cardiovascular health.
The findings of this study help explain the proven benefits of beetroot juice for lowering blood pressure in people with hypertension.
Other vegetables that contain a lot of nitrates, including cabbage, lettuce, spinach, and celery, could offer similar benefits.
Scientists at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom led the research, which features in the journal Redox Biology.
“We are really excited about these findings, which have important implications for healthy aging,” says lead author Prof. Anni Vanhatalo.
“Maintaining this healthy oral microbiome in the long term might slow down the negative vascular and cognitive changes associated with aging,” she adds.