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Effects of dietary nitrate supplementation on symptoms of acute mountain sickness and basic physiological responses in a group of male adolescents during ascent to Mount Everest Base Camp

Hennis, PJ and Mitchell, K and Gilbert-Kawai, E and Bountziouka, V and Wade, A and Feelisch, M and Grocott, MP and Martin, DS (2016) Effects of dietary nitrate supplementation on symptoms of acute mountain sickness and basic physiological responses in a group of male adolescents during ascent to Mount Everest Base Camp. Nitric Oxide - Biology and Chemistry, 60. pp. 24-31. ISSN 1089-8603

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of dietary nitrate supplementation, in the form of beetroot juice, on acute mountain sickness (AMS) symptoms and physiological responses, in a group of young males trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp (EBC). Forty healthy male students (mean age (SD): 16 (1) yrs) trekked to EBC over 11 days. Following an overnight fast, each morning participants completed the Lake Louise AMS questionnaire and underwent a series of physiological tests: resting blood pressure as well as resting and exercising heart rate, respiratory rate, and peripheral oxygen saturation. The exercise test consisted of a standardised 2-min stepping protocol and measurements were taken in the last 10 s. Participants in the intervention arm of the study consumed 140 ml of concentrated beetroot juice daily, containing approximately 10 mmol of nitrate, while those in the control arm consumed 140 ml of concentrated blackcurrant cordial with negligible nitrate content. Drinks were taken for the first seven days at high altitude (days 2–8), in two equal doses; one with breakfast, and one with the evening meal. Mixed modelling revealed no significant between-groups difference in the incidence of AMS (Odds Ratio – nitrate vs. control: 1.16 (95% CI: 0.59; 2.29)). Physiological changes occurring during ascent to high altitude generally were not significantly different between the two groups (Model Coef (95% CI) – average difference nitrate vs. control: systolic blood pressure, 0.16 (−4.47; 4.79); peripheral oxygen saturation, 0.28 (−0.85; 1.41); heart rate, −0.48 (−8.47; 7.50) (Model Coef (95% CI) – relative difference nitrate vs. control: ventilatory rate, 0.95 (0.82; 1.08)). Modelling revealed that diastolic blood pressure was 3.37 mmHg (0.24; 6.49) higher for participants in the beetroot juice, however this difference was no larger than that found at baseline and no interaction effect was observed. Supplementation with dietary nitrate did not significantly change symptoms of AMS or alter key physiological variables, in a group of adolescent males during a high altitude trekking expedition. There was no evidence of harm from dietary nitrate supplementation in this context. Given the wide confidence intervals in all models, a larger sample size would be required to exclude a false negative result. Our data suggest that prolonged oral nitrate supplementation is safe and feasible at altitude but has little physiological or clinical effect.

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