Drinking beetroot juice every day for six months after having a stent fitted reduced the chance of angina patients having a heart attack or needing a repeat procedure, according to a study, led by an Indian-origin researcher.
In a study of 300 patients, researchers from St Bartholomew's Hospital and Queen Mary University in London (QMUL) found that 16 per cent of angina patients had a serious heart or circulatory incident, like a heart attack or need for another procedure, in the two years after having a stent fitted.
However, when patients had beetroot juice daily, this dropped to 7.5 per cent, they said while presenting the results at the British Cardiovascular Society conference in Manchester.The researchers were able to show that beetroot juice helps patients, thanks to its natural high level of inorganic nitrate.
Patients in the trial that had beetroot juice with inorganic nitrate removed did not get the same beneficial effects.Inorganic nitrate is a nutrient that gets converted to nitrite by naturally found bacteria in the mouth, which is then turned into the signalling molecule nitric oxide (NO) by enzymes in the body.
It is thought that NO is the cause of the positive effects on patients' blood vessels.Beetroot juice was shown to be a safe and reliable way to get inorganic nitrate into the body, with no significant side effects experienced by any of the 300 patients.
"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," said Dr Krishnaraj Rathod, Clinical Senior Lecturer at the William Harvey Research Institute, QMUL.
"Our patients liked that their treatment was a completely natural product that has no significant side effects," Rathod said.Thousands of coronary heart disease patients have a stent implanted to widen one of the blood vessels in their heart and ease their angina, in a procedure known as a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).
Around 10 per cent of patients experience restenosis, where the stented blood vessel narrows again and heart disease symptoms return, within five years of a PCI.When the blood vessel width of patients was measured six months after stenting, the vessels of those who had beetroot juice showed around half as much narrowing in that time as those who had the placebo treatment.
"We will now take this to the next stage of trials in the hope that doctors can soon prescribe beetroot juice to ensure stents last longer to provide even more effective relief of symptoms," Rathod said.
The team hopes that, if successful, beetroot juice can be prescribed as a treatment to be taken after stent implantation. This may then extend beyond angina patients to those who have had a stent for a different reason, like after a heart attack.