Fructose: an Unexpected High Blood Pressure Trigger

Beware of fructose, which we now know can cause high blood pressure.

When you've got high blood pressure, maintaining good health can be like negotiating a minefield. Watching your diet, exercising, and taking your meds are foundational to keeping your blood pressure at reasonable levels...but there are plenty of "nos" to worry over, and unfortunately, that list keeps on growing.

The best you can do is stay on your toes, and take note of new dangers as they come to the attention of medical science. Today, we'll look at a high blood pressure trigger that's recently come to the fore: fructose.

Sweetness, Soured

Fructose, or fruit sugar, is a prime ingredient in high fructose corn syrup (hence the name). Snack and beverage manufacturers often use high fructose corn syrup in sweets and soft drinks, because it's plentiful and cheap. Fructose is also one of two sugars present in table sugar; the other is glucose.

It turns out that fructose does more than generate the occasional sugar rush and rot your teeth. Apparently, it can also cause hypertension. As early as 2008, scientists noticed that feeding mice a lot of fructose decreased salt excretion by the kidneys, resulting in increased BP.

The Salt Connection

About half of us humans are salt sensitive, so increasing salt content in the body could, logically, trigger hypertension in some individuals. A more recent study by the Colorado Denver Health Science Center, using data collected on 4,500 adults by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has confirmed this suspicion.

After correlating four years' worth of survey data (for 2003-2006), in late 2009 the researchers concluded that people with diets high in fructose are more likely to have high blood pressure than the general population.

It doesn't take a lot of fructose to make a difference, either. The average intake of the subjects involved was 74 grams (about 3 ounces), which is roughly equivalent to 2.5 12-ounce cans of non-diet soda, a few cookies, or your average slice of cake. Not that much, really.

Meanwhile, an independent study of 4,900 adolescents, using data from the same CDC source, confirmed that excess consumption of sugary sodas can cause elevated systolic BP.

More Bad News

Not only does fructose put you at a higher risk of hypertension, its effects are apparently independent of other BP triggers. In other words, it just doesn't contribute to other causal factors, its effect adds to theirs. So if you already eat a lot of salty foods and smoke, you're just piling up the risks with fructose.

According to the researchers, taking in more than the 74-gram daily average can increase your blood pressure by at least 30%, which could easily push borderline individuals right up into the high blood pressure range.

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