March 29 (UPI) -- Potassium has long been used as one of the best natural antidotes to high blood pressure, but new research may have revealed a better solution.
Mixing in a small amount of beetroot or dietary nitrate with salty food may help keep a person's blood pressure at normal level, according to a study published Thursday in Hypertension.
"We've had these educational campaigns for years, but people aren't eating more potassium, and the average salt intake in the U.S. population in hypertensive people has actually increased," said Theodore W. Kurtz, a professor of laboratory medicine at the University of California at San Francisco and study lead author, in a news release. "We need to come up with new ways of preventing salt-induced hypertension."
A little beetroot juice or dietary nitrate -- which is extracted from root and green vegetables like celery, lettuce and spinach -- had 100 times the potency of potassium in keeping blood pressure down when given to salt-sensitive rats.
Medical professionals have long asked people with high blood pressure to reduce their salt intake and eat fruits and vegetables with high amounts of potassium. This keeps down the risk of cardiovascular disease. It's just not always advice that people follow.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people consume less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium each day, most people take in more than 3,400 milligrams.
The researchers say it may be a little too early to prescribe beetroots or nitrite extract to humans for high blood pressure, but they are urging food manufacturers to give it a try.
"We're suggesting that manufacturers of products laden with salt -- soy sauce, hot sauce and barbecue sauce -- could add a very small amount of an extract from a nitrate-rich vegetable, and this would protect against salt-induced hypertension without reducing the salt or altering the taste of the product," Kurtz said.