Downing foods and beverages made with fructose may add to your risk of developing high blood pressure (aka hypertension), according to research presented last week at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology. One of the primary sources of fructose in the American diet is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS for short).
Made by transforming the sugar (glucose) in cornstarch to fructose, HFCS not only extends the shelf-life of processed foods but is also cheaper than sugar. That makes HFCS a win-win for many food makers who use it to sweeten sodas, fruit-flavored drinks, and processed foods. Indeed, the average American consumes more than 3 tablespoons of HFCS a day, an 120% increase since the early 1990s. In that same duration, rates of obesity—often a precursor to hypertension—have ballooned.
For the study, researchers examined 4,528 adults with no history of hypertension. The participants filled out a dietary questionnaire, which included questions about their intake of fruit juices, soft drinks, bakery products, and candy. The data showed that subjects who ate or drank more than 74 grams (g) of fructose a day (the equivalent of 2.5 sugary soft drinks) increased their risk of developing hypertension.
Specifically, downing more than 74g of fructose a day led to 28%, 36%, and 87% higher risk for blood pressure levels of 135/80, 140/90, and 160/100mmHg respectively. A normal blood pressure reading is below 120/80. In the analysis, researchers included HFCS as well as fructose from other sources, such as table sugar, jam and honey.
“These results suggest that high fructose intake is significantly and independently associated with higher blood pressure levels in the U.S. adult population with no previous history of hypertension,” conclude the authors. Meaning that by cutting back on sweets, specifically processed foods and drinks made with HFCS, you may be able to dodge hypertension down the road.
And in a country where as many as 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure, every little bit helps.