Scientists Learning More About Sugar’s Role in Hypertension

Scientists Learning More About Sugar’s Role in Hypertension
  • study states that people need to pay attention to both sugar and salt in order to avoid high blood pressure (hypertension). The study targeted a specific kind of sugar – fructose – and concluded that consuming more than the average daily intake of fructose (74 grams – or the amount found in about 2.5 cans of non-diet soda) can increase the odds of acquiring hypertension by 30 percent (source).

    Critics within the medical field have pointed out flaws in the new fructose study, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. However, the study’s results do conform with a study published last month in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. That study found that drinking one less sugary drink a day can have a significant effect on lowering blood pressure.

    Considering the fact that the diets of Americans are getting worse and worse, and that obesity rates are over 25 percent in more than three-fourths of America, this means that high blood pressure will also take its toll on the American healthcare system. Hypertension can cause deterioration of blood vessels and is a leading indicator for the onset of heart disease (the leading cause of death in the U.S.), as well as kidney disease and other ailments.

    The fructose study focused on foods, other than fruit, that have high-fructose corn syrup and other added sugars, including soda, fruit punch, cookies, candy and chocolate. The study spanned four years and included 4,500 U.S. adults who had not previously had high blood pressure. Researchers found that consuming 75 grams or more of fructose per day increased the likelihood of having hypertension above 140/90 (the maximum threshold for normal blood pressure) by 30 percent and above 160/100 by 77 percent.

    The researchers said that if a person consumes fructose, their risk of attaining high blood pressure exists independent of any other eating habits including sodium, carbohydrates or overall calorie intake. 

    High-fructose corn syrup can be found in a wide variety of products including baking and cooking ingredients, breads, cereals, pastries, candy bars, condiments, jellies, salad dressings, sauces and snacks. Because most people do not pay close attention to their consumption of fructose, they may be unaware of the potential harm they could be causing themselves.

    Critics of the study said there was no clear cause-and-effect relationship between fructose and hypertension. The researchers themselves admitted that more research is needed to confirm their findings. The best place to start, they said, is to answer questions about how fructose actually affects blood pressure:  Does fructose make the body absorb sodium more readily? And does fructose increase levels of uric acid (known to increase blood pressure in some cases)?