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Sugary foods could increase risk of high blood pressure: Study

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 02-Nov-2009

High consumption of sugary foods and beverages could increase the risk of hypertension, according to a study presented at the American Society of Nephrology’s Annual Meeting in San Diego last week.

The study, from the University of Denver Colorado’s Health Sciences Center, examined fructose consumption, a sugar found in fruits and many vegetables, honey, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and compared it to blood pressure levels. Using self-reported dietary information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the researchers examined consumption of candy, soft drinks, bakery products and fruit juice in the diets of 4,528 adults. However, whole fruits were excluded “due to their high content of ascorbate, antioxidants, and potassium that counter the effects of fructose.”

The researchers found that people who consumed more than 74 grams per day of fructose – the equivalent of 2.5 sugary drinks – had a significantly increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

“These results indicate that high fructose intake in the form of added sugars is significantly and independently associated with higher blood pressure levels in the US adult population with no previous history of hypertension,” the authors wrote.

More research needed

Lead researcher Diana Jalal told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “I think our study is important because we looked at a large number of individuals. It highlights the large amounts of fructose that we consume.”

However, she added: “We can’t say based on our results that fructose leads to high blood pressure…We would recommend well-planned interventional study.”

Speaking of the intense scrutiny that researchers have put fructose under in recent years, Jalal said: “Collectively, it is highly implicative of fructose as an indicator of disease…I think there’s enough [research] out there to suggest that high fructose consumption is harmful but to what extent it is responsible for obesity, diabetes and all these problems, we can’t be sure.”

Fructose and HFCS confusion

Research examining high fructose consumption has led to much confusion about high fructose corn syrup, and the industry has repeatedly found itself defending the sweetener. In fact, HFCS has very similar fructose content to sucrose (ordinary table sugar).

But confusion was stirred up yet again after the American Society of Nephrology issued a press release about the study entitled “High Fructose Corn Syrup: a Recipe for Hypertension”. It pinpointed high fructose corn syrup as a possible contributing factor to high blood pressure, rather than all fructose, as the researchers had observed.

A correction was issued late on Friday, carrying the altered title “High Fructose Intake from Added Sugars: an Independent Association with Hypertension”, but not before several international news agencies and local papers around the world had picked up on the story and included its original connection with HFCS.

Lead author Diana Jalal told FoodNavigator-USA.com that the original press release was due to an oversight.

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