Does Beetroot Juice Support Oral Health?
Beets have long been known for their health benefits. But according to a recent study, they may also give oral health an edge.
High carbohydrate diets are often used to support hydration and electrolyte restoration by athletes in training. Carbs, also typically found in popular sports drinks, are converted into glucose to furnish a quick blast of energy. But while this boosts performance, it also lowers pH in saliva, allowing the oral atmosphere to become more acidic. Unfortunately, sports drinks often contain ingredients, such as malic and/or citric acid, which can further decrease salivary pH.
Acidification of saliva sets the stage for the proliferation of cariogenic bacteria—and demineralization of teeth. Couple this with dehydration that results from exercise or mouth breathing and any remaining benefits of saliva’s protective properties are reduced.
Solving the Carb Conundrum
In an effort to counteract this situation, researchers from the University of the West of Scotland conducted a study to determine the effects of nitrate (NO3) on the oral health of runners.1 Nitrate, more than a preservative shunned by health enthusiasts, is a naturally occurring substance in food sources such as leafy greens … and beets. Once consumed, it is converted into nitric oxide, a gas that plays significant physiological roles in the body.
Studies show that beetroot juice (aka: beet juice), which is made from ground beets, raises nitric oxide levels. This increases blood flow and improves other metabolic functions throughout the body. When nitrate content in the diet is raised for several days with NO3-rich beetroot juice, salivary pH increases.
Researchers set out to investigate whether a single dose of NO3-rich beetroot juice would keep salivary pH levels from plummeting following carbohydrate intake prior to and after exercise.
The researchers recruited 11 trained male runners with good cardiovascular and oral health. The randomized placebo-controlled study involved assessing the impact of various liquids on their subjects in four trials.
After drinking either water, NO3-rich beetroot juice, or depleted beetroot juice, the subjects then ran 90 minutes on the treadmill—with enough exertion to leave them mildly dehydrated—breaking for 4 minutes at the midway point to consume more liquids. Pre- and post-trial pH of saliva and plasma samples were measured.
Study results showed that NO3-rich beetroot juice boosted salivary pH enough to substantially limit the rise in acidity, while also reducing the acidification rate after carbohydrate consumption. This is interesting in that beetroot juice, itself, is full of carbohydrates.
Researchers concluded that when a single dose of NO3-rich beetroot juice is ingested, salivary pH is increased for several hours. This may provide a modicum of oral health protection for athletes in training.
While NO3-rich foods and beverages, such as beetroot juice, appear to be beneficial weapons in the arsenal against tooth decay, they, of course, are not alone. To maintain good oral health, oral health care aids, such as dentifrice, toothbrushes, interdental cleaning aids, fluoride exposure, and the use of antimicrobial mouthrinses, are still important tools in oral hygiene regimens.
And to keep things interesting, manufacturers seem to come up with innovations daily to simplify this daily chore and make it, well, less of a chore. Kids benefit from colorful and techy selections of toothbrushes with fun designs. Adults can take advantage of the range of products currently available, many of which are designed to handle specific clinical issues.
- Burleigh MC, Sculthorpe N, Henriquez FL, Easton C. Nitrate-rich beetroot juice offsets salivary acidity following carbohydrate ingestion before and after endurance exercise in healthy male runners. Plos One. Available by clicking here.