High Fructose Corn Syrup Linked to High Blood Pressure
High fructose corn syrup is pervasive in the standard American diet and increases the risk of developing a pervasive health problem, high blood pressure, according to new research. Consumers should limit their consumption of foods that contain high fructose corn syrup to help avoid hypertension.
High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener and preservative that is a combination of fructose and glucose that extends the shelf life of processed foods. Because of this quality, and the fact that it is cheaper than sugar, it is often used instead of sucrose. High fructose corn syrup is added to many popular foods, including sodas, fruit-flavored drinks, soups, dressings and condiments, yogurts, breads, cereals, lunch meats, and other processed foods.
Intake of high fructose corn syrup has increased significantly in the past two decades since the additive was introduced to the market. Americans today consume 30 percent more high fructose than they did 20 years ago and up to four times more than 100 years ago. Researchers have noted that the rate of fructose intake has directly paralleled the increase of obesity and of high blood pressure.
Until now, studies linking high intake of fructose to hypertension have had inconsistent findings. The current study, which was presented at the American Society of Nephrology’s 42nd Annual Meeting and Scientific Exposition in San Diego, involved 4,528 adults who had no prior history of hypertension. The intake of high fructose corn syrup for each participant was calculated based on a dietary questionnaire.
The investigators found that adults who consumed more than 74 grams of fructose daily (equal to 2.5 sugary soft drinks per day) increased their risk of developing hypertension. More specifically, the greater risk was 28 percent, 36 percent, and 87 percent higher for blood pressure levels of 135/85 mmHg, 140/90 mmHg, and 160/100 mmHg, respectively. Further research is needed to determine whether diets low in fructose can normalize blood pressure and help prevent the development of hypertension.
Use of high fructose corn syrup is a controversial topic, and a link to high blood pressure is only one concern. Some experts say it contributes to obesity, while others argue that it is no worse than sugar (sucrose), as both contain roughly the same amounts of fructose and glucose. A study published in Environmental Health earlier this year reported that researchers had found detectable levels of mercury in nine of 20 samples of commercial high fructose corn syrup, while another study, conducted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a nonprofit watchdog group, found mercury in nearly one-third of 55 popular brand-name foods and beverages bought off store shelves in 2008. Mercury in any form and at any level is toxic. Therefore along with possibly contributing to high blood pressure, consumers may have other reasons to worry about high fructose corn syrup.
American Society of Nephrology, online
Dufault R et al. Environmental Health 2009 Jan. 26; 8(2)
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, news release Jan. 26, 2009