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Aging can mean many different things to different people.
From improved confidence in who you are to the wisdom that comes from learning from your mistakes, the life experiences that shape you can be a wonderful thing.
But not all of the changes we go through as the years pass are positive ones, especially when it comes to our health.
In fact, with age can also come poor blood vessel health that leads to heart problems and even ever-worsening cognitive function.
Surprisingly, a big part of the problem is an aging body part you’d never suspect…
Regulating blood vessels and chemical messages
As we age, we tend to produce lower levels of nitric oxide — an important compound responsible for not only regulating your blood vessels but helping them dilate to keep your blood pressure in the healthy range. It even plays a vital role in neurotransmission, to keep those chemical messages that help you be you (and the best version of you) flowing freely.
So, when nitric oxide production goes down as the years pass, your chances of experiencing high blood pressure and heart problems, as well as cognitive difficulties goes up.
And part of the reason that happens is because your mouth — or more specifically — your oral microbiome, ages too. Yes, age even finds its way into your mouth and causes changes you can’t even see that affect the rest of your body.
But it’s not a lost cause.
Just because we’ve gotten a little older, doesn’t mean we have to throw in the towel — especially since a recent study from the University of Exeter found that kicking up production is as simple as a glass of juice…
Activating nitrates with healthy oral bacteria
Your mouth, like your gut, has what’s called a microbiome — a colony of bacteria either good or bad — that plays a big role in your overall health.
And your oral microbiome specifically has been proven to take compounds called nitrates from the foods you eat and activate them so that your body can level up your nitric oxide production.
But it can only do its job and activate those nitrates if it has the right mix of bacteria.
Here’s where some seriously good news comes in…
That study I was talking about found that the key to tipping the balance to healthy mouth bacteria — to give your nitric oxide levels the kick in the pants they need — is as easy as drinking beetroot.
So I’m sure you’re wondering, “Why beetroot?”
And the answer is simple.
Beetroot is jam-packed with nitrates. Although a few veggies contain inorganic nitrate, like lettuce, spinach and celery — beetroot is a nitrate powerhouse, as the researchers at the University of Exeter found when it dropped the participants’ systolic blood pressure (the top number in your blood pressure reading) by an average of five points (mmHg)!
Additionally, consuming beetroot resulted in lower levels of a nasty bacteria — Clostridium difficile (C. diff) — which can infect the bowels and cause diarrhea. C. diff, especially in hospital settings, can lead to dangerous, potentially deadly, infections, especially among older patients.
According to lead research author Professor Anni Vanhatalo, “Our findings suggest that adding nitrate-rich foods to the diet — in this case via beetroot juice — for just ten days can substantially alter the oral microbiome (mix of bacteria) for the better.
“Maintaining this healthy oral microbiome in the long term might slow down the negative vascular and cognitive changes associated with aging.”
Making beets part of your whole food diet sounds like a good idea about now, doesn’t it?
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Nitrate-responsive oral microbiome modulates nitric oxide homeostasis and blood pressure in humans — Free Radical Biology & Medicine