Dietary Nitrate Increases Muscle Speed and Power in Patients with Heart Failure

Washington University researchers have demonstrated that beetroot juice, which is rich in nitrate (NO3), can increase muscle function in heart failure patients. This may enhance their ability to perform activities of daily living and hence improve their quality of life.

Although heart failure starts out as a disease of the heart, it ultimately becomes a systemic whole-body problem. “Heart failure patients are weaker, slower, and their muscles are less powerful than healthy persons, even when accounting for differences in muscle size and physical activity,” said lead and corresponding author Andrew Coggan, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Washington University. “This may be partially due to decreased nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability. We therefore hypothesized that dietary NO3, which can be converted to NO would improve muscle function in such patients.”

The authors tested this by measuring the contractile performance of the knee extensor muscles of 13 HF patients several hours after they had drunk a commercial BRJ supplement. They found that, compared to ingestion of a NO3-depleted beetroot juice placebo, ingestion of beetroot juice containing NO3 resulted in a 13% increase in maximal muscle power. This was enough to acutely erase ~1/3rd of the patients’ deficit compared to normal individuals.

“It’s a small study,” said Linda Peterson, MD, a Washington University cardiologist and co-principal investigator on the project, “but if we can improve the ability of HF patients to perform power-based activities such as climbing stairs or getting up out of a chair, we could have a significant impact on their quality of life.” The study was published September 15th in Circulation: Heart Failure.