Beetroot Juice May Reduce Heart Attack Risk in Stent Recipients

New research presented at the British Cardiovascular Society conference suggests that for people who have had a stent placement procedure, drinking beetroot juice every day may help prevent a post-stent heart attack or the need for repeat procedures.

Stents are tiny mesh tubes that surgeons insert into narrowed or weak arteries in the heart to restore optimal blood flow. The stent placement procedure is minimally invasive, and most of the time, the stent continues to keep the blood vessel open and the person experiences no further issues.

However, in a recent study funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research and the British Heart Foundation, researchers from St Bartholomew’s Hospital and Queen Mary University in London discovered that after stent placement, the stented blood vessel narrowed again within five years in about 10% of patients.

In addition, about 16% of people who underwent a stent placement procedure experienced a heart attack or required another procedure within two years after stent placement.

But, when the researchers had stent patients drink beetroot juice or a placebo every day, blood vessel measurements six months later showed that people who drank beetroot juice had about 50% less vessel narrowing than those drinking the placebo.

Moreover, the consumption of beetroot juice reduced the rate of post-stent heart attack and repeat procedures to 7.5%.

In a news release, Krishnaraj Rathod, Clinical Senior Lecturer at the William Harvey Research Institute, QMUL, says, "Experiments in the lab suggested that the inorganic nitrate, which is found naturally in beetroot juice, would have these effects, and it is very encouraging to see it create such a big improvement in the clinic for angina patients. Our patients liked that their treatment was a completely natural product that has no significant side effects."

The study authors also found that participants who drank beetroot juice with inorganic nitrate removed did not experience the same reduction in vessel narrowing.

In the body, inorganic nitrate is converted into nitrite and then to nitric oxide (NO), a signaling molecule. Scientists believe NO is what’s causing the beneficial blood vessel effects observed in the trial.

Among the 300 participants, none experienced significant side effects except pink urine.

"Thousands of patients each year have to go through the stress of a medical procedure on their heart more than once before it is successful. This small study offers hope that this can be prevented. The trial must now be scaled-up to confirm the initial observation that beetroot juice can make a difference," notes Professor James Leiper, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation.

The team plans to begin a larger trial in the near future. If successful, they hope that healthcare providers will have the option of prescribing beetroot juice to their stent patients to possibly prevent stent failure, post-stent heart attacks, and the need for repeat procedures.


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