Can Beetroot improve the body's ability to cope with altitude?

The challenge of climbing the world’s highest mountains appeals to thousands of adventurers across the globe, but high altitude sickness (AMS) can hinder even the most experienced climber.   Now research from the Mid Sweden University and Norwegian University of Science and Technology has shown that consuming a quick high nitrate Beet It concentrated beetroot shot can improve the body’s ability to deliver blood to the muscles at high altitude.

Beet-It in use at high alitutde  © Berit Rein Solhaug
Beet-It in use at high alitutde
© Berit Rein Solhaug

Altitude sickness is caused by the lower air pressures at altitude which affects the body’s ability to distribute sufficient oxygen. The body has to acclimatise in order to function properly due to the reduced oxygen availability. The recently published paper shows that the natural dietary nitrate contained in the Beet It shot can help with this.  The nitrate interacts with enzymes in saliva to boost Nitric Oxide (NO) in the blood system, which is the body’s natural regulator of blood flow.

The Swedish and Norwegian team of scientists spent months in Nepal mostly in the Rolwaling Valley west of Mount Everest, investigating how the high nitrate beetroot concentrate affected the arterial function of students on the Outdoor and Adventure Management program. Using both Beet It shots (with a 400mg nitrate content) and specially produced “nitrate depleted” Beet It shots as a placebo, they measured the Flow Mediated Dilation of blood vessels, to assess the impact of nitrate supplementation on arterial function at both low and high altitude.  The study found that the high nitrate Beet It shot made the blood vessels relax and return much more quickly to normal function, while the placebo shot had no effect.

Dr Harald Engan, from the Environmental Physiology Group at Mid Sweden University, commented: “During acclimatisation to high altitude, obtaining sufficient blood perfusion is essential.  Our study shows that dietary nitrate supplementation reduced the stiffness of the blood vessels, allowing blood to be distributed more easily in the body. In this way, dietary nitrate supplementation may be a possibly novel strategy to improve arterial function during high altitude exposure. Whether dietary nitrate supplementation potentially can reduce the risk of developing altitude related diseases needs to be further investigated.”

Svein Erik Gaustad from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim also commented: “Next time you plan a trip at high altitude, maybe it is worth carrying a beet juice shot in your backpack.  It may be the extra boost your body needs to deliver enough oxygen to your tired muscles and keep you healthy when you are climbing a high mountain.”

A link to the latest research can be found at

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21 Oct, 2015
Does this mean Everest's going to become littered with Beet-It bottles instead of oxygen canisters?
23 Oct, 2015
Yup, and carrots help you see in the dark.

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