They found that overweight adults with high blood pressure who drank one fewer serving of sugary soft drinks per day had significantly lower blood pressure after 18 months. The authors said that the average American consumes 2.3 servings of sugar-sweetened soft drinks a day, including regular soft drinks, fruit drinks, lemonade and fruit punch, but not including diet drinks. Previous research has linked high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to increased risk of obesity, type-2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, the authors said.
The study appears in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Lead author Liwei Chen, assistant professor at Louisiana State University Health Science Center School of Public Health in New Orleans, said: “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.”
The researchers found that after adjusting for other factors known to contribute to high blood pressure, the participants’ blood pressure dropped by a significant amount when they cut down on calorically sweetened beverages. They acknowledged that part of this was linked to weight loss, but said it was still a significant reduction when the figures were adjusted to take account of that weight loss.
Chen said: "Although this study was conducted among mostly overweight adults and many with hypertension, we believe that others will benefit by reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. However, such evidence from humans is lacking, and we plan to conduct such research among non-hypertensive individuals."
The researchers emphasized that the study’s results do not mean that soft drinks cause high blood pressure and that more research was needed.
In response to the study, Dr. Maureen Storey, senior vice president of the American Beverage Association, said in a statement: “This study does not show that there is anything unique about drinking sugar-sweetened beverages that leads to increased blood pressure, or that there is something unique about reducing their consumption that leads to reduced blood pressure. The authors themselves acknowledge the latter, noting that their study does not establish cause and effect.”