Drinking beetroot juice every day for four weeks can significantly reduce high blood pressure, a report in medical journal Hypertension has claimed.

The study, conducted by scientists at Queen Mary University of London – and funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) – tested 64 patients with hypertension in a clinical trial between 2011 and 2013.

Half the patients drank a 250ml glass of beetroot juice every day, while the other half received a placebo.

Lead study author Professor Amrita Ahluwalia, said those consuming beetroot juice experienced an improvement of around 20% in blood vessel dilation capacity and around a 10% reduction in arterial stiffness – changes which had been shown by other studies, to be associated with substantial reductions in heart disease, she added.

Patients also experienced an average decrease in blood pressure of about 8/4 mmHg, which for many patients brought their blood pressure levels back into normal ranges, the study claimed, with beetroot – and other leafy green vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage – containing high levels of the substance ‘inorganic nitrate’.

“This research has proven that a daily inorganic nitrate dose can be as effective as medical intervention in reducing blood pressure,” said Ahluwalia, who described the findings as substantial given that studies suggested each 2mmHg increase in blood pressure increased the likelihood of death from heart disease by 7%, and stroke by 10%.

“The next step will hopefully be to run a large-scale phase three clinical trial so we can determine whether the impact of dietary nitrate is sustained long-term, and whether this should be recommended in NHS guidelines,” she said.

Dr Shannon Amoils, senior research advisor for the BHF, described the results of the trial, and the possibility of using a natural product to control hypertension, as “appealing”, but warned that additional research with a larger sample of patients and over a longer period of time was required.

Simon Calder, product manager for vegetable grower G’S Fresh, said the vasodilatory (or blood vessel widening) properties of beetroot juice had been “well known but little understood for centuries”.

“Over the past ten years, we have closely watched the incredible advances made towards understanding the effects of inorganic nitrates in lowering blood pressure,” he said.

“As a producer, we are continually investing in developing innovative formats to consume beetroot, with a particular focus given towards our expanding range of Love Beets beetroot juice blends which are now widely available across the UK and USA”.