Scientists are launching a new study to see if drinking beetroot juice can help people with type 2 diabetes burn fat more efficiently.
Animal studies have already shown that nitrates can convert white fat storage cells into brown fat cells, which are easier to burn.
But now a team from the University of Portsmouth and Bournemouth University will study the effects of drinking high-nitrate beetroot juice on humans.
They are currently recruiting for volunteers with type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition that prevents the body from regulating blood sugar levels.
dr Ant Shepherd of the University of Portsmouth’s School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science said: “Humans and most other mammals have two types of fat cells – white fat cells store energy and brown fat cells burn that energy to generate heat.
“Brown fat is much easier to burn, so let’s see if nitrates can help convert white fat to brown fat, which in turn could help people burn more calories.
“Imaging of brown fat is particularly difficult, but if we can assess the effect of nitrates on brown fat activity in humans, we’ll be a step closer to understanding the effects of diet on health and disease.”
Study participants will be asked to drink half a glass of juice daily for two separate 14-day periods.
For one period this is beetroot juice, for the other a placebo that tastes the same.
Every two weeks, they visit Bournemouth University research facilities for an MRI scan to see how much brown fat is in their bodies.
The researchers will also use a thermal imaging camera to see how active this brown fat is. Participants must submit blood samples to a laboratory for analysis.
dr Rebecca Neal of Bournemouth University said: “We hope this research could show that nitrate consumption over time will result in small weight loss and improved outcomes in type 2 diabetes.”
According to Diabetes UK, more than 4.9 million people in the UK have the condition and treatment costs the NHS £10billion a year, with these numbers expected to continue to rise.
dr Neal added: “If this study is successful, it could pave the way for larger studies examining how this novel approach could help patients manage their disease and save the NHS money.
“Our hope is to show that beetroot juice could be an inexpensive, non-invasive alternative to drug treatment that results in a better quality of life for people with type 2 diabetes.”