May 24, 2010
Sugary Drinks Raise Blood Pressure?

Drink less sugar to keep your blood pressure down.

New Orleans, LA – Research led by Liwei Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Public Health at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, has found that there is an association between sugary drinks and blood pressure and that by cutting daily consumption of sugary drinks by just one serving a day, people can lower their blood pressure. The research is published online in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

"We found no association for diet beverage consumption or caffeine intake and blood pressure," notes Dr. Chen, "suggesting that sugar may actually be the nutrient that is associated with blood pressure and not caffeine which many people would suspect."

The research, which was supported by a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, analyzed dietary intake and blood pressure of 810 adults measured at baseline, 6 and 18 months. After known risk factors of high blood pressure were controlled for, a reduction in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption of one serving per day was associated with a drop of 1.8 mm Hg in systolic pressure and 1.1 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure over 18 months.

Is it the sugar or the resulting insulin surge that causes the damage?

Both heart disease and stroke risks are lowered by keeping blood pressure down. Eat less sugar to avoid blowing out a gasket.

“Our findings suggest that reducing sugar-sweetened beverages and sugar consumption may be an important dietary strategy to lower blood pressure and further reduce other blood pressure-related diseases,” Chen said. “It has been estimated that a 3-millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) reduction in systolic blood pressure should reduce stroke mortality by 8 percent and coronary heart disease mortality by 5 percent. Such reductions in systolic blood pressure would be anticipated by reducing sugar-sweetened beverages consumption by an average of 2 servings per day.”

When people drink sweetened tea or coffee they usually use table sugar to sweeten it .That might not be as bad as the high fructose corn syrup found in most sodas. Plus, some of the harm from soda might be due to high phosphate. So soda seems like the worst form of sweetened beverage to drink.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 May 24 11:06 PM  Aging Diet Heart Studies

Brett Bellmore said at May 25, 2010 3:10 AM:

Is this rather like salt? IOW, something of concern only to a fraction of the population? My resting BP is about 105/60, in my 50's, after a life-long Mountain Dew habit.

If you're going to tell me the pressure would be even lower without the Dew, I'm going to tell you I rather like the fact that I can finally stand up without technicolor sparkles.

random said at May 25, 2010 6:17 AM:

"We found no association for diet beverage consumption"
Randall, this quote would indicate to me that it's not the insulin surge, given that most artificial sweeteners have been found to cause a similar insulin response to sugar.

"people who drank fewer sugary sodas lowered their blood pressure"
The "sugary sodas" bit there concerns me about this study. Did they replace the beverages with diet sodas or with alternative drinks like iced tea or diet lemonade? There is a ton of sodium in all sodas, which can definitely raise blood pressure.

bbartlog said at May 25, 2010 10:43 AM:

105/60 is pretty low, esp. for a man. While lowering your blood pressure further would probably continue to decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke, it might not reduce your all-cause mortality, since falls and dementia can also kill you and might be more likely with lower blood pressure.
All-cause mortality (not just heart attack and stroke risk) does decrease as you move down from the high to middle levels, though. Interestingly however the effect decreases as people get older. Whether this is a result of the vulnerable high-bloodpressure cohort keeling over, or due to increased pathology from problems associated with lower blood pressure, isn't clear.

Steve said at May 25, 2010 2:05 PM:

Fructose causes the liver to release uric acid into the bloodstream. Uric acid raises blood pressure:

BubbaJ said at May 25, 2010 3:59 PM:

Here's Dr. Richard Johnson explaining the correlation between fructose, uric acid and high blood pressure (3 videos about 27 minutes total):

comatus said at May 25, 2010 4:24 PM:

What an absolutely astounding coincidence. I believe every word of it!
I'm sure none of us can wait for a similarly-funded study to tell us what's next.
No reason for doubt here, on anyone's part. After's Science!

Nancy Reyes MD said at May 25, 2010 4:47 PM:

Technical problems with the study:

One: notice the tiny difference: 1 mm...This is within a "measuring error"...take three blood pressures, and you will get 3-10 mm difference between them. So who took the BP?

Two: "diet" surveys are notoriously inaccurate.

Three: how was the tiny drop estimated? Did 400 folks drop their pressure 2 mm? Or just a few drop it significantly and change the average BP?

Four: Estimates of stroke/heart attack deaths by such a small drop are fake.

Dropping pressure from 180/100 to 150/90 might lower your risk over a five year period, so if you add these "moderate" folks with normal folks, you might end up with a 2 mm difference in the entire population and also a drop in heart attack/strokes. But population studies showing lower and lower blood pressure reduces morbidity in the low risk general population is now being questioned, not only due to cost but because of side effects of medicines.

Summary: Dropping BP 120/70 to 117/67 isn't going to save a lot of folks from strokes, and lowering it from 220/110 to 217/105 won't either, but lowering it from 220/100 to 140/90 in the 10 percent who have significant high blood pressure will, and change statistics for an entire population cohort.

Anton said at May 25, 2010 5:49 PM:

Sugar, salt, meat, pesticide on veggies.... We're running out of things that we can eat that won't kill us!

Javert said at May 25, 2010 5:58 PM:

Life is what kills us.

dentin said at May 25, 2010 6:18 PM:

FYI: table sugar is generally sucrose, which is dextrose and fructose linked together - in short, 50% fructose. High fructose corn syrup is a similar proportion, between 40 and 60% fructose.

Randall Parker said at May 25, 2010 6:19 PM:


Only processed meats might be a problem. You just have to cook your own turkey and eat steaks.

Lono said at May 27, 2010 8:01 AM:

Anyone who drinks typical "commercial" soda in this day and age is as willfully ignorant as those who smoke cigarettes.

I myself will put a stop to my occasional indulgences this week - just as I did with donuts a year and a half ago.

(it's amazing how much soda and/or donuts are pushed on the employees in some work places)

Also - unlike in the 80's - there are so many healthy - and easily accesible - alternatives now - one really has no excuse for this foolish behavior.

It's like you've said before Randall - there are no gaurantees for life extension - but wouldn't one be quite the fool for not doing simple things to maintain good health when we are so close to achieving these new technologies.

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