MISSOURI, United States, Wednesday December 17, 2014 – While dietary advice to help lower high blood pressure has historically focused on cutting salt intake, a new study has warned that sugars added to processed foods and soft drinks are likely to play a greater role than salt in raising blood pressure, as well as triggering heart disease and stroke.
Heart disease is the number one cause of premature death in the developed world and high blood pressure is its most important risk factor.
According to the authors of the new study at the Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri, the average reduction in blood pressure as a result of restricting salt intake, tends to be relatively small.
Some evidence suggests that 3 to 6g of salt daily may be optimal for health, with anything less being potentially harmful.
The scientists indicated that most salt in a person’s diet comes from processed foods, which are also a rich source of added sugars.
“Sugar may be much more meaningfully related to blood pressure than sodium [salt], as suggested by a greater magnitude of effect with dietary manipulation,” the study found.
“Compelling evidence from basic science, population studies, and clinical trials implicates sugars, and particularly the monosaccharide fructose, as playing a major role in the development of hypertension [high blood pressure].
“Moreover, evidence suggests that sugars in general, and fructose in particular, may contribute to overall cardiovascular risk through a variety of mechanisms.”
The scientists focused on high fructose corn syrup, the most frequently used sweetener in processed foods, particularly fruit-flavoured and carbonated beverages.
The study, published in the journal Open Heart, states: “Worldwide, sugar sweetened beverage consumption has been implicated in 180,000 deaths a year.”
Evidence suggests that individuals whose dietary intake of added sugars adds up to at least a quarter of their total daily calories have almost triple the cardiovascular disease risk of those who consume less than 10 percent, moreover.
A daily intake of more than 74g of fructose is associated with a 30 percent greater risk of blood pressure above 140/90 mm Hg and a 77 percent increased risk of blood pressure above 160/100 mm Hg.
A diet high in fructose has also been linked to double the risk of metabolic syndrome, an unfavourable blood fat profile, and higher fasting blood insulin levels.
The authors emphasised that naturally occurring sugars found in fruit and vegetables are beneficial to health.
“Reducing consumption of added sugars by limiting processed foods containing it, made by corporations, would be a good place to start,” the scientists said.