Sugar-sweetened beverages could increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, according to research published in the journal Hypertension.
High blood pressure is thought to be a major risk factor for heart disease, the number one cause of death worldwide.
In a study of more than 2,500 people from the United States and the UK, researchers said they found a link between an increase in blood pressure and quantity of sugar-sweetened soft drinks, with systolic blood pressure higher by an average of 1.6 mmHg and diastolic readings by an average of 0.8 mmHg for every extra serving of sugar-sweetened soft drink consumed. They did not find a similar link between diet soft drink consumption and blood pressure, and the link was most pronounced in those with the highest consumption levels of both sugar and sodium, the researchers reported.
Senior author of the study, and professor at Imperial College London, Paul Elliott said: “This points to another 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.”
The researchers analyzed consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, sugars and diet soft drinks for 2,696 40- to 59-year-old participants, through self-reporting of food and drink consumption for four days, two 24-hour urine collections, eight blood pressure readings, and a questionnaire on lifestyle, medical and social factors.
They found that general sugar consumption was highest in those drinking at least one sugary beverage a day, and that those who consumed more than one serving per day consumed more calories overall, with an average extra energy intake of 397 calories per day.
Another of the researchers, Ian Brown, a research associate at Imperial College London, said: “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.”
The American Heart Association recommends that people should aim to get no more than half of their daily discretionary calorie allowance (those that are left after consuming foods necessary to meet nutrient guidelines) from added sugars, which it says is equivalent to about 100 calories a day for women and 150 calories a day for men.
Meanwhile, the recently published 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended for the first time that Americans should “drink water instead of sugary drinks”, although this recommendation is rooted in the idea that limiting nutrient-poor calorie sources could help tackle the nation’s obesity problem, as opposed to any other disease risk factor.