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Does a Spoonful of Sugar Make the Blood Pressure Go Up?

Mar. 21, 2013|664 views
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At the urging of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering “strategies to reduce [salt] intake in the United States.” We eat too much salt, experts say, and much of the excess comes from processed and packaged foods. For many people, there’s a direct link between excess salt consumption and high blood pressure. And high blood pressure is on the rise around the country. It’s a risk factor for heart disease, and a component of the metabolic syndrome. It’s been called a silent killer.


But other scientists wonder if FDA isn’t missing an opportunity to finger another important culprit: sugar. Sugar consumption has skyrocketed in the past few decades, and there is mounting evidence that fructose, in particular, is capable of producing high blood pressure (hypertension). Fructose is a simple sugar. Together with glucose, it comprises ordinary table sugar in a ratio of 50:50. High-fructose corn syrup, found in numerous packaged foods, and especially soft drinks, supplies even more fructose. The amount of fructose in a day’s recommended serving of fruit is considered natural, and harmless. But the amount we’re consuming in products like sweetened soft drinks is excessive. Experts note there are at least four different mechanisms by which fructose may force blood pressure skyward.   


Egan BM, Zhao Y, Axon RN. US trends in prevalence, awareness, treatment, and control of hypertension, 1988-2008. JAMA. 2010 May 26;303(20):2043-50. doi: 10.1001/jama.2010.650.


Mitka M. IOM recommends federal regulation over the salt content of certain foods. JAMA. 2010 Jun 9;303(22):2238-40. doi: 10.1001/jama.2010.723.


Nguyen S, Lustig RH. Just a spoonful of sugar helps the blood pressure go up. Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther. 2010 Nov;8(11):1497-9. doi: 10.1586/erc.10.120.

Tags:  chronic illness, obesity, prevention