Scientists are launching a new study to see if drinking beet juice can help people with type 2 diabetes burn fat more efficiently.
Animal research has already shown that nitrates can turn white fat storage cells into brown fat cells that are easier to burn.
But now a team from the University of Portsmouth and the University of Bournemouth will look into the effects of drinking high nitrate beet juice on humans.
They are currently looking to recruit volunteers with type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease that prevents the body from regulating blood sugar.
Ant Shepherd, from the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science at the University of Portsmouth, said: “People and most other mammals have two types of fat cells – white fat cells store energy and cells brown fat burns this 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 can help people burn more calories.
“Brown fat imaging is particularly challenging, but if we can assess the effect of nitrates on brown fat activity in humans, we will go one step closer to understanding the impact of nutrition on health and disease.”
Test participants will be asked to drink half a glass of juice each day for two separate 14-day periods.
For one period it will be beet juice, for another it will be a placebo with the same taste.
After each two-week period, they will visit Bournemouth University’s research center to have an MRI scan to see the amount of brown fat in their bodies.
The researchers will also use a thermal camera to see how active this brown fat is. Participants will be required to provide blood samples for laboratory analysis.
Dr. Rebecca Neal from Bournemouth University said: “We hope this research can show that nitrate consumption will lead to small weight loss and improved type 2 diabetes outcomes over time.”
According to Diabetes UK, more than 4.9million people in the UK have the condition and treatment costs the NHS £10billion a year, with those numbers set to continue to rise.
Neal added: “If this trial is successful, it could pave the way for larger studies of how this new approach can help patients manage their disease and save the NHS money.
“Our hope is to show that beet juice can be an inexpensive, non-invasive alternative to drug treatment, leading to a better quality of life for people with type 2 diabetes.”