Barts and The London, School of Medicine and Dentistry

Beetroot treats high blood pressure?

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London have found that patients with hypertension who consumed 250 millilitres of beetroot juice daily experienced an average decrease in blood pressure of approximately 8/4mmHg, enough in many participants to bring their BP back within normal ranges. This decrease was due to the presence of ‘inorganic nitrates’ present in beetroot which can also be found in other leafy vegetables including lettuce and cabbage. The average reduction in blood pressure through a single anti-hypertensive drug is 9/5 mmHg. Therefore, these findings suggest a role for dietary nitrate as an effective, easy and affordable treatment in managing blood pressure with similar results to drug treatment. This is of great importance as other large-scale observational studies have suggested that each 2mmHg increase in BP increases the likelihood of death from heart disease by 7 per cent and stroke by 10 per cent. The future will lie in a Phase Three trial in which long-term sustainability will be assessed and recommendations be added to NICE guidelines.

St. George’s University of London

May Viagra aid dementia prevention?

Researchers at St.George’s, in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Society and the Alzheimer’s Drugs Discovery Foundation, will be commencing a study questioning the use of drugs used in impotence to treat vascular dementia. Drugs such as tadalafil, belonging to the same group as Viagra, could help prevent vascular dementia by increasing cerebral perfusion. Vascular dementia affects 110,000 annually and is the result of small vessel disease. It is estimated that the dementia epidemic will increase yet again next year with 850,000 people expected to be affected in the UK by 2016.

Imperial College London

Is Dengue a thing of the past?

Scientists at Imperial College London have discovered a new class of human antibodies against all four strains of the dengue fever virus, which they hope can be exploited to develop a vaccine to either treat and/or prevent the disease developing. Having studied the blood from infected patients from Southeast Asia, they found that rather than binding to a single protein on the surface of the virus, these antibodies target a molecular bridge between two proteins. Although the four strains of dengue virus have variations in their surface proteins, the molecular bridge is the same, enabling the antibodies to neutralise all different types. A vaccine containing the bridge, or a closely similar molecule, could work by training the immune system to recognise and attack dengue viruses. If and when the vaccine develops, the question that then arises is the availability of the vaccine to resource-poor settings.

Kings College London

Just how fat our our kids?

A 20-year Kings College London study of electronic health records has found that one third of children in the UK are overweight/obese. The study follows the babies of 1993 and shows that overall, the increase in prevalence was significant for all age groups in the first decade, but it was only significant in the second decade for 11-15 year olds. The implications of such teen obesity are ‘profound’ in terms of current and future health. Researchers added that many of the techniques used by local authorities in England, who have assumed responsibility for obesity as part of their public health remit, are not based on strong evidence, and there is little in the way of outcomes data to determine how successful they are. Furthermore, many parents and clinicians remain to be convinced that childhood obesity is a serious enough health concern, they say, suggesting that it may be time to revisit the idea of implementing a ‘fat tax.’ It is hoped that this research will provide the evidence for governmental action to tackle the childhood obesity crisis in England, which is far from over.

University College London

Can we diagnose pancreatic cancer any sooner?

Pancreatic cancer could be diagnosed up to two years earlier by screening for two tumour markers found in blood, according to researchers from UCL, UCL Hospital Foundation Trust and the University of Liverpool. They have suggested that these biomarkers could be used as an early screening tool for those at high risk of pancreatic cancer. The researchers used blood samples taken from patients before the appearance of symptoms to test for four key markers. When used in combination, two of these markers, CA19-9 and CA125, were identified as being sensitive enough to detect pancreatic cancer up to two years before clinical presentation. This is the first study to find increased levels present in the early stages of pancreatic cancer. The study found that also screening for CA125 improved the sensitivity of detecting pre-clinical pancreatic cancer. It is hoped that the two screening tests will be used enhance test pathways in primary care, combining risk assessment and symptom tools with biomarkers to hopefully improve early cancer diagnosis for patients.


Research-in-Brief is a monthly summary of current medical breakthroughs being made by our medical schools. If you have any research you want summarised then contact

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