Sugar-sweetened drinks have been linked to high blood pressure according to a recent study . This data suggests that sugary juices and soft drinks cause high blood pressure in 131 million Americans. In the past, high intake of salt was believed to be the main culprit. Doctors now believe that reducing intake of sugar will reduce the risks of heart attack and stroke.
“Fructose- and glucose-BP associations were direct, with significant sugar-sodium interactions: for individuals with above-median 24-hour urinary sodium excretion, fructose intake higher by 2 SD (5.6% kcal) was associated with systolic/diastolic BP differences of +3.4/+2.2 mm Hg (both P<0.001) and +2.5/+1.7 mm Hg (both P=0.002) with adjustment for weight and height.“
The relationship between sugar and high blood pressure corresponds to their glycemic index number. Glycemic index shows how specific foods affect the level of glucose in the blood. Foods with higher glycemic index cause higher levels of glucose to be present in the blood. In turn, an increased level of glucose induces the pancreasâ€”a gland whose tasks include the maintenance of sugar level in the bodyâ€”to release more insulin. Unfortunately, an increase in insulin causes the storage of more fat in the body that may lead to obesity, higher risk of certain infections, and an increase in triglyceride levels. Two of these things are well-known to contribute to heart disease. Excessive insulin levels also cause cells to become more insulin-resistant, causing other systems in the body to malfunction.
Insulin also aids in the storage of magnesium, which is used to relax muscles. When cells become insulin-resistant, relaxing the muscles becomes more difficult, causing blood pressure to rise. In addition, insulin also influences the bodyâ€™s retention of both sodium and water which lead to high blood pressure if present in excessive amounts.
Another study proves that reducing the intake of sugary foods also lowers blood pressure, enough to lower your risk of heart disease. A Louisiana State University research team led by Dr. Liwei Chen studied 810 adults with either pre-hypertension or Stage I high blood pressure. The subjects were grouped into three: those who reduced their sugar intake by 6 ounces, those who reduced their intake of artificially sweetened (no sugar) drinks, and those who reduced their intake of non beverage foods that contain sugar.
“Reduced consumption of SSB (sugar-sweetened beverages) and sugars was significantly associated with reduced BP. Reducing SSB and sugar consumption may be an important dietary strategy to lower BP.”
The findings are quite conclusive. Those who reduced their consumption of sugar-laced beverages also experienced drops in weight and blood pressure. Meanwhile, the blood pressure of people who only reduced their intake of artificially sweetened drinks remained unchanged. Lastly, subjects who reduced intake of other sugary foods also experienced a drop in blood pressure levels. These scenarios establish the link between blood pressure and dietary sugar. Scientists are still studying exactly how sugar causes blood pressure to rise. Some scientists believe that sugar triggers the component of the nervous system responsible for fight-or-flight responses. Others think that sugar allows the body to store more amounts of sodium. Still others think that sugar causes an increase of uric acid which, in turn, causes blood vessels to contract.
- Brown IJ, Stamler J, Van Horn L, Robertson CE, Chan Q, Dyer AR, Huang CC, Rodriguez BL, Zhao L, Daviglus ML, Ueshima H, Elliott P; International Study of Macro/Micronutrients and Blood Pressure Research Group. Sugar-sweetened beverage, sugar intake of individuals, and their blood pressure: international study of macro/micronutrients and blood pressure. Hypertension. 2011 Apr;57(4):695-701. Epub 2011 Feb 28.
- Circulation; Reducing Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Is Associated With Reduced Blood Pressure; Liwei Chen, M.D., et al.; June 2010.