Beetroot juice (BRJ) has become increasingly popular amongst athletes aiming to improve sport performances. BRJ contains high concentrations of nitrate, which can be converted into nitric oxide (NO) after consumption. NO has various functions in the human body, including a vasodilatory effect, which reduces blood pressure and increases oxygen- and nutrient delivery to various organs. These effects indicate that BRJ may have relevant applications in prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, the consumption of BRJ also has an impact on oxygen delivery to skeletal muscles, muscle efficiency, tolerance and endurance and may thus have a positive impact on sports performances. Aside from the beneficial aspects of BRJ consumption, there may also be potential health risks. Drinking BRJ may easily increase nitrate intake above the acceptable daily intake, which is known to stimulate the endogenous formation of N-nitroso compounds (NOC's), a class of compounds that is known to be carcinogenic and that may also induce several other adverse effects. Compared to studies on the beneficial effects, the amount of data and literature on the negative effects of BRJ is rather limited, and should be increased in order to perform a balanced risk assessment.
Keywords: Beetroot juice; N-nitroso compounds; endogenous nitrosation; nitrate; nitrite; risk-benefit.