Is Sugar Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Sugar cubes in a bowl( — The link between high blood pressure and salty, high sodium foods has long been established. But now we can add sugar to the problem as well. Because almost half of the African American population has high blood pressure and the remaining half is still at increased risk, the information from a new study serves an important warning that sugar is just as much of a threat as salt.

People who eat a diet high in fructose are more likely to have high blood pressure according to the study.  More specifically, people who drink about two 12-ounce daily servings of sweetened fruit drinks, soft drinks, lemonade and fruit punch increase their risk of developing high blood pressure by about 30 percent or more.  The risk remains increased regardless of overall sodium, calorie or carbohydrate intake.

“High-fructose corn syrup is very prevalent,” said Dr. Michel Chonchol, M.D., the senior author of the study and a blood pressure specialist at the University of Colorado Denver Health Sciences Center. “If you go to grocery stores, it’s everywhere.”

Chonchol and researchers examined the diet and blood pressure readings of more than 4,500 American adults with no history of hypertension. The data was collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in nationwide surveys over a period of four years. Researchers found the average fructose intake was 74 grams daily or about two and a half cans of soda.

One theory as to how fructose might be linked to high blood pressure is that fructose might make the body absorb more sodium. Fructose may also increase levels of uric acid, a compound which is known to be associated with high blood pressure.

The study’s findings don’t necessarily prove that fructose can cause hypertension. Researchers examined various health and dietary factors, but there are always unknown factors that may further explain the link.  Chonchol said more research is needed to confirm the link between high blood pressure and fructose, but it is clear that high fructose corn syrup is not particularly good for you.

Fortunately, reducing your intake of sugary drinks by 6 ounces a day can lower risk of heart attack and stroke. To help lower your daily sugar intake:

• Drink unsweetened 100 percent juice drinks and flavored water in place of 12 ounces of soda, lemonade, or fruit punch.
• Buy fruits canned with natural juice instead of fruits canned in syrups.
• Choose whole grain bran cereals in place of sugar-coated cereals.
• Avoid using sugar as a seasoning. Instead, choose from a variety of spices to add the flavor you desire without the sugar.
• Watch out for fat-free and diet snacks and foods. They tend to replace the fat with lots of sugar.
• Safely cut the sugar required in recipes by one half.
• Use cinnamon, almond and vanilla extracts to sweeten breads.

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