Sugar-sweetened drinks cause higher blood pressure

Tuesday, March 08, 2011 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: soda, high blood pressure, health news

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(NaturalNews) New research just published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association concludes that soda and other drinks sweetened with sugar are associated with higher blood pressure. And the more sugar as well as sodium (also found in abundance in most sodas) people consumed, the higher blood pressure spiked upwards.

The International Study of Macro/Micronutrients and Blood Pressure (dubbed INTERMAP, for short), found that research subjects who drank sugar-sweetened beverages daily had significantly higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure on average than folks who didn't imbibe the sweet drinks. Researchers found the highest blood pressure levels in people who consumed the most glucose and fructose -- both of these sweeteners are found in high-fructose corn syrup, which is the most common sugar sweetener used by the beverage industry.

INTERMAP investigators looked at the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, sugars and diet beverages in 2,696 participants between the ages of 40 and 59 who lived in two areas of the United Kingdom and eight regions of the U.S. In detailed interviews, the research subjects revealed what they ate and drank for four days. They also underwent two 24-hour urine collections and eight blood pressure readings and filled out detailed questionnaires about their lifestyle, medical history and social factors.

The research team found that sugar intake (in the form of glucose, fructose and sucrose) was highest in people who drank more than one sugar-sweetened drink a day. In addition, they discovered that individuals drinking more than one serving per day of sugar-sweetened beverages consumed almost 400 calories more daily than people who didn't.

Overall, the scientists concluded that folks who drink a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages have less healthy diets than those who avoid imbibing these empty calories. "They consume less potassium, magnesium and calcium," Ian Brown, Ph.D., research associate at Imperial College London, said in a press statement.

"One possible mechanism for sugar-sweetened beverages and fructose increasing blood pressure levels is a resultant increase in the level of uric acid in the blood that may in turn lower the nitric oxide required to keep the blood vessels dilated. Sugar consumption also has been linked to enhanced sympathetic nervous system activity and sodium retention," he added.

Paul Elliott, Ph.D., senior author of the study and professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, stated the new research points to a possible intervention to lower blood pressure. "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," he noted.

So do these findings give a green light to drinking chemically sweetened sodas instead of the ones containing sugar? Hardly.

As NaturalNews as reported previously, there's extensive evidence linking artificial sweeteners like aspartame to health problems ranging from premature births and brain tumors to fatty liver disease ( What's more, although the INTERMAP study found no consistent link between blood pressure levels and drinking diet sodas, the researchers did discover that those who drank diet soda had higher mean Body Mass Indexes (BMI) than those who didn't -- and they exercised less, too. That means the people drinking diet sodas were fatter and probably less fit than the sugar-beverage consumers.

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