December 11, 2010


     There's a popular university northwest of here that's really more of a cult.  The graduates drive maroon trucks, wear maroon clothes, and say 'whoop!' at damned near everything (I've heard a grad say it during the hell did that person get into med school?).  I'm pretty sure their blood even turns maroon once they graduate and receive initiating into the high church.  Like I said, it's a cult that demands complete allegiance in everything.  I think I may have been subversively assimilated. 
    Let me back up to explain how.  A few weeks back, I started getting sinusitis and ran to my family doc.  Quite expectedly, my bp was less than desirable as I was throwing down sudafed with regularity.  I blew off my doc's concern saying that it'll return back to normal after this is all done.  To prove my point, I started measuring my bp once I recovered.  Ahhhh, crap.  It didn't come down so much.  The top number was consistently running 135-142 which puts me on the verge of Stage I hypertension.  The bottom number was 77-81 which places me in that same range.  Having done a wee bit of hypertension drug discovery, I couldn't help but pick up a bit of knowledge along the way.  I know full well that prehypertensive is really just a polite way of saying, "you're not hypertensive...YET, but you will be in short time.  Let's get you medicated."  Short of making some decent lifestyle alterations, pretty much everyone in that prehypertensive group inevitably progresses to full blown hypertension.  It's just a matter of time.
     Losing weight is one of the reliable methods but that takes time.  Strike one.  Hypertension also runs in my family on one side.  Strike two.  I wanted to do something in the interim until I could shed some pounds.  Enter the color maroon.  There were a couple of fascinating papers outlining the effects of beet juice on blood pressure.  It's just a couple of papers but they look convincing because in it, they outline the mechanism.  Anytime someone has A) observed a phenomenon and B) explained said phenomenon with proper controls, it starts to gain credibility in my book.
     The group observed two things.  First, they established that supplementing with a pill of nitrate similar in dose to the amount found in a glass of beet juice lowered bp.  Second, they established that the reduction in bp is due to the conversion of nitrate to nitrite by bacteria in our body.  How did they do that?  They had subjects drink the beet juice but then spit out their saliva once they swallowed the drink.  Let me reiterate.  They drink AND swallow the juice.  The juice is in the stomach and gets absorbed.  After that, they begin to spit out their saliva.  That blocks the bp lowering effects.  By spitting out your spit, you remove that recirculation of nitrate in your saliva to allow bacteria to do their thing.  It turns out that bacteria in our body (saliva) convert the nitrate to nitrite.  That nitrite is then converted to that nobel prize winning compound nitric oxide.  Nitric oxide has a rather large reputation in the cardiovascular field.  I'm sure you've even heard about it, or at least its effects on the blood vessels (think of nitrates for a person with angina which improves coronary blood flow or viagra/levitra/cialis which improves penile blood flow, both through the production of nitric oxide).  That's right, it dilates your arteries and lowers blood pressure.  (You gotta love the fact that with thousands of publications and a nobel prize, the best we can do is a drug to improve erections.  Drug development is really about stumbling in the dark hoping to get lucky.)
     The beet juice (250 ml drank twice a day) was shown to decrease bp by just the amount I need.  I'm not about to start eating beets ad nauseum (it'd require three beets a day) and the juice itself is cost prohibitive so I got some freeze dried powder hoping it'd do the same thing.  After just three doses (mix a teaspoon in a small glass of water), my systolic came down to 124 and diastolic down to 70.  Perfect.  And it's about the same monthly cost as a generic antihypertensive would cost for my crappy insurance.  People in alternative medicine always like to tout 'natural' rememdies as being without consequence or side effects unlike evil pharmaceuticals.  Ain't true.  The stuff tastes horrid.  Swallowing an ACE inhibitor would be SO much easier.  I despise beets so I guess if you like beets, then it'd be great.  But I think they taste like crap.  And speaking of crap, it turns it maroon.  Whoop!  I must be becoming an aggie.  If my feces are maroon, I might as well go all in and get a maroon truck and start growing maroon bluebonnets.

Do some more reading (shouldn't I be studying for finals???) and find that it can also improve exercise tolerance.  I gotta believe given the mechanism, it should help beat erectile dysfunction but no papers on that.

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