Athletes who use antibacterial mouthwash won't get anything from beetroot
Products like Listerine and Corsodyl contain substances such as benzoic acid, benzoate or chlorhexidine, which reduce the bacteria population in your mouth. This can reduce mouth infections and give you fresher breath, but it also means that supplements containing beetroot concentrates or other nitrate-rich products won't work. This information emerged from a study that Swedish physiologists published in 2008 in Nitric Oxide.
Nitrates are of interest to athletes because they are converted into nitrogen monoxide [NO]. Bacteria in your mouth convert nitrate into NO.
The diagram above shows how the biochemical formation of NO happens. The diagram below shows the same process, but then from the biological point of view.
If you understand these two diagrams, then the Swedes' research results bear no surprises.
The researchers got seven healthy people to rinse their mouth for a minute with Corsodyl - active ingredient: chlorhexidine. Fifteen minutes later they got the participants to drink a fluid containing nitrates. [Mouthwash experiment] On another occasion the researchers repeated the experiment, but omitted the antibacterial mouthwash. [Control experiment]
The antibacterial substances had no effect on the nitrate concentration in the blood, but completely blocked the increase in nitrite concentration in the blood. That means that the conversion into NO did not take place.
"In conclusion, dietary nitrate acutely increases the circulating levels of nitrite in a process that is heavily dependent on oral bacteria," the Swedes summarised.
"Removal of oral bacteria with an antibacterial mouthwash markedly attenuates systemic nitrite formation thereby disturbing the nitrate-nitrite-NO pathway."
Nitric Oxide. 2008 Dec;19(4):333-7.
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