New trial to explore if beetroot can help people with type 2 diabetes

A bundle of beetroot

Researchers are looking for volunteers to take part in a new clinical trial.

  • 01 August 2022
  • 4 min read

Researchers are looking for people in the south of England with type 2 diabetes to take part in a new clinical trial to see if drinking nitrate-rich beetroot juice can help them burn fat.

Animal studies have shown that nitrates can turn white fat storage cells into brown fat cells, but this is the first time scientists will study the effect of nitrates on humans.

The research is being carried out by a team from the University of Portsmouth and Bournemouth University. 

They are currently looking to recruit more volunteers with type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition which means your body doesn’t regulate blood sugar levels.

Dr Ant Shepherd, from the University of Portsmouth’s School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science, said: “People and most other mammals have two types of fat cells - white fat cells store energy and brown fat cells burn that energy to produce heat. Brown fat is much easier to burn so we want to see if nitrates can help turn white fat into brown fat, which in turn might help people burn more calories.

“Imaging brown fat is particularly difficult, but if we can assess the effect of nitrates on brown fat activity in humans, we’re a step closer to understanding the impact of nutrition on health and disease.”

Participants in the trial will be asked to drink half a glass juice every day for two separate periods of 14 days. For one period this will be beetroot juice, for the other it will be a placebo that tastes the same; this will be allocated randomly and people will not know which they are drinking. 

 

Imaging brown fat is particularly difficult, but if we can assess the effect of nitrates on brown fat activity in humans, we’re a step closer to understanding the impact of nutrition on health and disease.

Dr Ant Shepherd, Senior lecturer

After each two-week period, they will visit Bournemouth University’s 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 that brown fat is. Participants will be required to provide blood samples for analysis in a laboratory.

Dr Rebecca Neal at Bournemouth University is organising the study. She said: “We’re hoping that this research could show that consuming nitrates will lead to small amounts of weight loss and improved type 2 diabetes outcomes over time.”

According to Diabetes UK, more than 4.9 million people in the UK have the condition and treatment costs the NHS £10 billion a year. These numbers are expected to keep increasing.

Dr Neal added: “If this trial is successful, it could pave the way for larger studies into 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 a low-cost, non-invasive alternative to drug treatment, leading to a better quality of life for people with type 2 diabetes.” 

People with type 2 diabetes who are interested in taking part can find out more by contacting Dr Neal (rneal@bournemouth.ac.uk) or Dr Ant Shepherd from the University of Portsmouth (ant.shepherd@port.ac.uk).