Nitrate-Rich Diet Found to Alter Oral Bacteria for the Better; Linked to Cardiovascular and Cognitive Health
The human mouth is home to billions of bacteria necessary for a healthy body. When we do things that disturb the balance of this microbial community, our cardiovascular and cognitive health may suffer the consequences.
But until now, we haven’t learned much about the connections between those functions and our oral bacteria. New research shows that the health benefits of beet juice include major effects on these bacteria and their role in our cardiovascular and cognitive functions.
The breaking news:
The nitrates naturally found in a vegetable-rich diet stimulated oral bacterial growth, promoting cardiovascular and cognitive functions.
More impressively, they retarded the growth of oral bacteria that cause inflammation and other diseases. Many strains of oral bacteria convert nitrates to nitrites, precursors to the nitric oxide known to regulate blood-vessel constriction and nerve-cell communication.
How it affects the future:
As our aging bodies produce less nitric acid, we experience declining cognitive and cardiovascular functions with their associated health risks.
Knowing which oral bacteria are involved in nitrite and nitric-acid production opens the door for future research on possible biomarkers (measurable indicators of biological changes). The biomarkers may lead to therapies for treating cardiovascular and cognitive impairments in the elderly.
In a randomized, cross-over design study, researchers from the University of Exeter provided 26 healthy 70 to 80 year-olds with a ten-day supplementation of nitrate-rich or nitrate-depleted beetroot juices. After collecting their saliva to analyze its microbiome compositions, they found the benefits of beet juice consumption included:
- A marked increase of the mostly non-parasitic Proteobacteria that are responsible for nitrogen fixation.
- A marked decrease in populations of Firmicutes, Bacteroides, and Fusobacteria that are responsible for various diseases in the elderly.
- A reduction in Prevotella-Veillonella bacteria associated with early inflammation. These are the same bacteria that have increased growth in smokers. They’re also linked to pneumonia in the elderly.
- “Ecosystemic shifts” into new colonies of Neisseria, Haemophilus, and Rothia in the oral microbiomes of the study’s vegan participants, These microbial strains are typically associated with periodontal health, younger age, lower BMI, and smoking abstinence.
- Slower growth of pro-inflammatory, protein-fermenting Clostridium difficile and P.intermedia. They’re thought to stimulate atherosclerotic plaque formation in the blood vessels.
Further findings on the benefits of beet juice:
Following their round of nitrate-rich beetroot juice supplementation, the participants also exhibited improvements in sustained attention and information-processing speed as measured by the Rapid Visual Information Processing (RVP).
These two indices measure the degree of cognitive decline among the cognitive-impaired elderly. As for cardiovascular health, beetroot juice supplementation positively affects blood pressure, oxygen consumption while walking, and nitric oxide bioavailability.
This is the first study utilizing a nitrate-rich diet to analyze the oral microbiome system. Previous studies compared the oral bacteria of young and older people. However, we need more research to investigate whether these findings hold among different age groups in various health states.
Remember that this study had only healthy participants. In addition to this, further research is essential for exploring the interactions between oral bacteria and our cognitive functions before we can utilize this diet intervention to delay age-related cognitive decline.
“We are really excited about these findings, which have important implications for healthy aging. 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 for the better,” said the study’s lead author, Professor Anni Vanhatalo.