Salt, Fructose and Soft Drinks: The High Blood Pressure Axis Of Evil
January 25, 2011 by Dr. Mark Wiley
Diet is a crucial component of any hypertension reduction and prevention strategy. For many patients, particularly those with diabetes or pre-diabetes, it needs to be the fundamental focus. Correcting poor food choices is the easiest way to get a handle on blood pressure and diabetes. Where food is concerned it is pretty clear which foods needs to be avoided and which foods should be center stage in your diet. Here are three of the worst food items. You should avoid them if you are at risk or have high blood pressure.
Reduce Your Salt Consumption
Salt is the archenemy of normal blood pressure. When we consume too much sodium our body retains too much water. This increase in water retention increases our overall circulatory volume, which is the load our blood vessels must handle when doing their job. Just like lifting a heavier object increases the load on our arms and strains our muscles, this fluid load increases the strain on our hearts and blood vessels. Increased strain and pressure cause hypertension.
While doing some additional research on this subject I looked into dozens of studies and articles, from the academic to the more popular. I was amazed at how many Internet writers dismissed the role of salt in raising blood pressure, given the abundance of clinical trials that clearly point to a direct connection between the two. While we know why salt causes blood pressure to rise, it is only from recent studies that scientists understand how salt adversely affects blood pressure.
Scientists from the United States and Japan have uncovered the physiological process that explains how salt raises blood pressure. According to the study, available on the University of Maryland website, it has something to do with a hormone known as ouabain that is secreted by the adrenal gland.
Total sodium intake must be reduced to help reverse and prevent hypertension. The easiest way to begin reducing salt intake is to stop adding it as seasoning to foods after they have been prepared. In other words, some salt for cooking as usual but then no extra salt added at the table (or restaurant) once the food is served. Once you get used to that reduction, then you can reduce the amount of salt you use while cooking or preparing foods. What’s more, simply choosing “low salt” versions of your favorite snacks, like pretzels or chips, is another fast way to reduce salt consumption right away without completely changing your eating habits all at once… which is often the cause of failure of most diets.
Limit Your Intake Of Fructose
Fructose is a simple sugar, or monosaccharide, that is derived from fruits and vegetables. In doses that are naturally consumed while eating, unprocessed whole fruits and vegetables, fructose is safe for your body. However, in high doses like those found in processed foods and beverages, fructose has been linked to increased blood pressure. In fact, a new study finds that a diet high in fructose increases the risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure.
Over the last century processed food purveyors have begun adding more simple sugars to their products in an effort to add flavor. During this period the number of Americans suffering from high blood pressure has skyrocketed.
A study presented at the American Society of Nephrology’s 42nd Annual Meeting found that the rate of obesity has increased sharply since the development of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and that the prevalence of HFCS in processed foods may have something to do with it. It’s been reported that Americans now consume 30 percent more fructose than they did 20 years ago.
The study showed that a diet of more than 74 grams of fructose a day led to dramatic increases in risk of hypertension for those with slightly higher blood pressure. Participants who had a blood pressure level of 160/100 had an 87 percent higher risk of developing hypertension.
The adverse is also true. Wherein consuming more fructose can raise blood pressure, reducing its consumption has also been clinically proven to lower blood pressure. Results of a recent University of Colorado at Denver study suggest that hypertensive individuals may be able to naturally lower their blood pressure by consuming a diet low in added fructose.
For the current study, lead author Diana Jalal and her colleagues from the University’s Health Sciences Center recruited nearly 4,600 adults over the age of 18 and had them fill out dietary questionnaires regarding their average daily consumption of processed fruit juices, soft drinks, bakery products and candy.
After taking into account other risk factors the researchers found that individuals who consumed more than 72 grams of fructose each day were between 26 percent and 77 percent (depending upon the blood pressure threshold) more likely to be hypertensive than those who eat few foods containing added sugar.
As part of your program for reducing and preventing high blood pressure it is important to avoid consuming food high in fructose and high fructose corn syrup. While it is best to read the labels of foods before buying or consuming them, here is a list of foods that are generally found to be high in fructose:
- Breakfast cereals.
- Canned soups.
- Processed cookies.
- Processed baked goods.
- Prepackaged sauces.
- Many sweets.
- Fruit snacks and juices.
- Prepackaged gravies.
- Diet beverages.
Consume Fewer Soft Drinks
Individuals who are looking to lower their blood pressure without taking medication may be able to do so by moderately reducing their intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, according to a new study.
For the 18-month study, which was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, a research team from the Louisiana State University Health Science Center recruited 810 adults with early stage hypertension who drank an average of 11 ounces of sugary beverages each day, well below the American average of 23 daily ounces.
At the end of the study, participants who reduced their soft drink intake by at least half lowered their systolic blood pressure by an average of 1.8 points and their diastolic blood pressure by 1.1 points.
"We found a direct dose-response relationship," said study leader Liwei Chen. "Individually, it was not a big reduction. But population-wise, reducing total consumption could have a huge impact."
According to background information included in the report, a three-point reduction in blood pressure can lower heart disease mortality risk by as much as 5 percent.
The correlation between lower blood pressure and reduced soft drink intake remained after accounting for weight loss and other risk factors. If ever there were more reason to stop drinking soft drinks than weight loss and chemical toxins, the ability to lower blood pressure by avoiding them is it!
– Dr. Mark Wiley