Doctor’s Tip: High-nitrate foods help many ailments
In last week’s column, “Doping with veggies,” I discussed how plants with a high nitrate concentration such as beets and green leafy vegetables have been shown to improve athletic performance. The nitrates are converted by the body to nitric oxide, which improves function of the endothelial lining of arteries and dilates them. In addition, these foods actually make oxygen usage more efficient. So the question is whether these foods help people who really need help, namely sick people, and the answer is yes.
Emphysema is a lung disease, usually caused by smoking, that involves loss of the little air sacs in the lungs, which results in low oxygen levels. A study of people with emphysema who were given daily beet juice showed that they were able to walk longer on a treadmill.
Peripheral vascular disease is caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) in the legs, resulting in blockages of blood flow and low oxygen levels in leg muscles with exercise. People with it have claudication, which is pain in their leg muscles when they walk very far. After taking beet juice for several days, people in a study were able to walk 18 percent longer.
Diets high in plant nitrates have also been shown to improve blood flow in the brain, resulting in improvement in age-related cognitive decline.
Erectile dysfunction is considered the “canary in the coal mine” for vascular disease, in that the penile arteries are very small in diameter and are usually the first to go when men get atherosclerosis. Men on a plant-based diet have considerably less E.D. and if they already have it and are put on a plant-based diet, the E.D. often resolves.
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Hypertension is an extremely common illness, particularly in people on a Western diet. When people with high blood pressure are put on a diet of vegetables high in nitrates, hypertension improved significantly and in many cased resolved.
The study that proved this wasn’t done until 2015, and one might ask why it wasn’t done years before. The answer is that it takes money to do a study. Anti-hypertensive drugs rake in about $10 billion in profits a year, and there’s not much money in beets, so obviously the pharmaceutical companies had no interest in sponsoring such a study. Finally, the nonprofit British Heart Foundation sponsored the study.
Dr. Feinsinger, who retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician, now has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and any other medical concerns. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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