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Sugar sweetened beverages risk for high blood pressure

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Sugar and blood pressure

Researchers say consuming sugar sweetened beverages is associated with higher blood pressure levels in adults, even after adjusting for body mass index. The findings come from the International Study of Macro/Micronutrients and Blood Pressure (INTERMAP).


Sugary beverages, sodium intake and unhealthy diet raise blood pressure

In the study , scientists noted people who drink sugary beverages have a less healthy diet that might be contributing to elevated blood pressure. For every sweetened drink consumed daily, blood pressure was1.6 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) higher and diastolic blood pressure was higher by 0.8 mm Hg.

The study, published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, found blood pressure levels were higher in individuals who consumed more glucose and fructose, sweeteners that are found in high-fructose corn syrup and also more severely elevated in association with sugar and sodium intake.

"This points to another possible intervention to lower blood pressure," said Paul Elliott, Ph.D., senior author and professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. "These findings lend support for recommendations to reduce the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, as well as added sugars and sodium in an effort to reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health."

More calories intake overall was found among people who drink sweetened beverages. On average, those consuming more than one glucose/fructose beverage a day took in more than 397 calories. Lower body mass index was prevalent for study participants who avoided the drinks.

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The INTERMAP study included 2,696 participants, 40- to 59-years-old, in eight areas of the United States and two areas of the United Kingdom who self-reported what they ate and drank over a period of four days, during in depth interviews. The subjects filled out detailed questionnaire targeting lifestyle, medical and social factors that might influence cardiovascular health in addition to undergoing a urine analysis and a series of 8 blood pressure readings.

"People who drink a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages appear to have less healthy diets," said Ian Brown, Ph.D., research associate at Imperial College London. "They are consuming empty calories without the nutritional benefits of real food. They consume less potassium, magnesium and calcium" that are important for vascular health.

Brown says the finding that sugar sweetened beverages contribute to high blood pressure is "one piece of the evidence in a jigsaw puzzle" that needs more study. In the meantime, the authors say calorie intake from sugar should be limited to 100 per day for women and 150 for men. The American Heart Association recommends consuming water or unsweetened teas.

The researchers aren't sure why sugary beverages raise blood pressure, but say it may be from sodium retention or higher uric acid levels in the bloodstream that leads to lower levels of nitric oxide that relaxes and widens the blood vessels. They also say the sweeteners may be enhancing activity of the sympathetic nervous system that controls heart rate and blood pressure.

Hypertension: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.110.165456
"Sugar-Sweetened Beverage, Sugar Intake of Individuals, and Their Blood Pressure
International Study of Macro/Micronutrients and Blood Pressure"
Ian J. Brown; Jeremiah Stamler; Linda Van Horn; Claire E. Robertson; Queenie Chan; Alan R. Dyer; Chiang-Ching Huang; Beatriz L. Rodriguez; Liancheng Zhao; Martha L. Daviglus; Hirotsugu Ueshima; Paul Elliott