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Beet (Beta vulgaris)

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Also listed as: Beta vulgaris
Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Interactions
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • Arabino-oligosaccharides, beet fiber, beet molasses, beet pulp, beet root, beet sugar, beetroot, betalains, Beta vulgaris, carotenoids, Chenopodiaceae (family), red beets, sugar beet, sugar beet arabinan, sugar-beet fiber, sugar beet pectin.

Background
  • Beet is a flowering perennial plant that produces leaves and roots that are widely used as a food source in humans and animals. Beets are a source of vitamins A and C, iron, and other minerals, carotenoids, and dietary fiber.
  • Betalins are natural pigments (colors) in beets that account for the red color in beet stems and leaves. After eating beets, these pigments produce red or pink urine (called beeturia) in about 10%-14% of people.
  • Sugar has been extracted from beets and used as a sweetener since the 16th Century and is still widely used today.
  • Beet pulp, the remaining byproduct of beet juices and sugars extracted from the root, is widely used in animal feed as a source of dietary fiber in humans. It is also used as a biosorption matrix.
  • According to secondary sources, beetroot has been used since Roman times to treat various medical conditions, including fever, constipation, digestive illnesses, and blood conditions. In ancient Rome, it was also used as an aphrodisiac. Today, beetroot is still a popular medicinal tonic in Africa, where it is used in treatment of AIDS and other illnesses. Beet leaves also have a long history of use for medicinal purposes; it is alleged that Hippocrates promoted use of the leaves for treatment of wounds.
  • Human studies have tested the effects of beet on blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure levels. However, results are mixed. Early evidence suggests that it may be beneficial for inflammation of the abdomen and pelvic walls (called toxic peritonitis). Additional research is needed to determine if beet is effective for any medical condition.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved dehydrated beets and sugar beet extract flavor base as food additives or listed or affirmed them as generally regarded as safe (GRAS).
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding feeding beets and other high-nitrate foods to infants younger than three months of age to avoid the risk of nitrate poisoning.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *


Along with high blood sugar levels and high cholesterol, high blood pressure is a known risk factor for heart disease that may be improved with diet and lifestyle changes. Early evidence suggests that sugar beet fiber may modestly lower systolic blood pressure in patients with type 2 diabetes. Additional research is warranted.
C


Dietary fiber has been shown to help improve blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. However, it is unclear if beet fiber improves glucose metabolism or blood sugar control. Research results are mixed.
C


Eating a diet rich in fiber has been shown to help improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Beet pulp and pectin have been used as dietary fiber in humans. However, it is unclear if beet has cholesterol-lowering effects. Research results are mixed.
C


Early evidence suggests that a pectin medicine made from red beet may improve inflammation of the abdomen and pelvic walls (called toxic peritonitis). However, additional studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
C


It is unclear if sugar beet fiber improves the secretion of gastric hormones in patients with type 2 diabetes. Additional research is warranted.
C
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Aphrodisiac, blood disorders, constipation, digestive disorders, digestive tonic (prebiotic), fever, HIV/AIDS, tonic, wound healing.

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older)

  • For abnormal glucose metabolism, 7-27 grams of sugar beet fiber has been taken daily in patients with type 2 diabetes.
  • For high cholesterol, 26-30 grams of sugar beet fiber has been taken daily.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for beet in children.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid in individuals with known allergy/hypersensitivity to any part of the beet plant, including the beetroot, beet leaves, beet fiber, beet pulp, or to members of the Chenopodiaceae family.
  • Cases of allergic reactions to red beet used as food coloring have been reported.
  • Sensitization and development of allergic reactions, particularly skin reactions, to beet pollen have been reported.
  • Anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) has been reported after eating foods sweetened with sugar beet or sugar cane. Microbial contamination of the sugars at the processing facilities was presumed to be the cause.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved dehydrated beets and sugar beet extract flavor base as food additives or listed or affirmed them as generally regarded as safe (GRAS).
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding feeding beets and other high-nitrate foods to infants younger than three months of age to avoid the risk of nitrate poisoning.
  • Several occupational illnesses, including asthma, anaphylaxis, poisoning, respiratory infections, and a bacterial infection called tularemia, have been reported in beet farmers and workers in beet sugar processing facilities. Most of these illnesses were not directly caused by beet exposure but rather to exposure to environmental bacteria, fungi, pollutants, or chemical insecticides present in such settings.
  • Eating beetroot is known to produce red or pink urine (beeturia) in about 10-14% of people.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Use of beet is cautioned in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence.
  • According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfed infants of mothers who eat beets and other foods high in nitrates are not at risk of nitrate poisoning because nitrate concentration does not increase significantly in breast milk.

Interactions

Interactions with Drugs

  • Beet may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or low-blood sugar levels, and in those taking drugs that affect blood sugar. Blood sugar levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Beet may interact with cholesterol-lowering drugs. However, the effects of beet fiber on lipid levels are unclear.
  • Sugar beet fiber may increase the transit time of drugs that are taken by mouth.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Beet may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or low-blood sugar levels, and in those taking drugs that affect blood sugar. Blood sugar levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Beet may interact with cholesterol-lowering drugs. However, the effects of beet fiber on lipid levels are unclear.
  • Sugar beet fiber may increase the transit time of herbs or supplements that are taken by mouth.
  • Beet does not appear to affect the absorption of zinc, iron, or copper.
  • Beet pectin may stimulate the growth of friendly bacterial in the gut called probiotics.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. Briskin, BS and Demidov, DA. [Enterosorption with pectin-containing medication in the treatment of peritonitis]. Khirurgiia (Mosk) 2005;(4):14-19.
  2. Castor, ML, Wagstrom, EA, Danila, RN, et al. An outbreak of Pontiac fever with respiratory distress among workers performing high-pressure cleaning at a sugar-beet processing plant. J Infect Dis 5-1-2005;191(9):1530-1537.
  3. Cossack, ZT and Musaiger, AO. Effect on lipid metabolism of beet fibre in desert nomads with low habitual fibre intake. Eur J Clin Nutr 1991;45(2):105-110.
  4. Hagander, B, Asp, NG, Efendic, S, et al. Reduced glycemic response to beet-fibre meal in non-insulin-dependent diabetics and its relation to plasma levels of pancreatic and gastrointestinal hormones. Diabetes Res 1986;3(2):91-96.
  5. Hagander, B, Asp, NG, Ekman, R, et al. Dietary fibre enrichment, blood pressure, lipoprotein profile and gut hormones in NIDDM patients. Eur J Clin Nutr 1989;43(1):35-44.
  6. Hamberg, O, Rumessen, JJ, and Gudmand-Hoyer, E. Blood glucose response to pea fiber: comparisons with sugar beet fiber and wheat bran. Am J Clin Nutr 1989;50(2):324-328.
  7. Harel, P, Mignot, L, and Junter, GA. Sugar beet Ca-pectate gel as a cost-effective immobilized-cell matrix for metal biosorption. Meded Rijksuniv Gent Fak Landbouwkd Toegep Biol Wet 2001;66(3a):291-294.
  8. Lampe, JW, Slavin, JL, Baglien, KS, et al. Serum lipid and fecal bile acid changes with cereal, vegetable, and sugar-beet fiber feeding. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;53(5):1235-1241.
  9. Patel, MR, Baer, RJ, and Acharya, MR. Increasing the protein content of ice cream. J Dairy Sci 2006;89(5):1400-1406.
  10. Schwab, U, Louheranta, A, Torronen, A, et al. Impact of sugar beet pectin and polydextrose on fasting and postprandial glycemia and fasting concentrations of serum total and lipoprotein lipids in middle-aged subjects with abnormal glucose metabolism. Eur J Clin Nutr 2006;60(9):1073-1080.
  11. Stevens, J, Ahn, K, Juhaeri, Houston, D, et al. Dietary fiber intake and glycemic index and incidence of diabetes in African-American and white adults: the ARIC study. Diabetes Care 2002;25(10):1715-1721.
  12. Zenaidi, M, Pauliat, S, Chaliier, P, et al. [Allergy to food colouring. A prospective study in ten children]. Tunis Med 2005;83(7):414-418.
  13. Stevens, J, Ahn, K, Juhaeri, et al. Dietary fiber intake and glycemic index and incidence of diabetes in African-American and white adults: the ARIC study. Diabetes Care 2002;25(10):1715-1721.
  14. Tamme, T, Reinik, M, Roasto, M, et al. Nitrates and nitrites in vegetables and vegetable-based products and their intakes by the Estonian population. Food Addit Contam 2006;23(4):355-361.
  15. Thorsdottir, I, Andersson, H, and Einarsson, S. Sugar beet fiber in formula diet reduces postprandial blood glucose, serum insulin and serum hydroxyproline. Eur J Clin Nutr 1998;52(2):155-156.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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