A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Blood Pressure Go Up

May 25, 2010
Megan Bedard is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.
A new study shows that sugar's side effects are not so sweet. Photo: Uwe Hermann/Creative Commons

Would you pour sugar into your car's gas tank? Probably not. Then you shouldn't be pouring it into your body, says American Heart Association (AHA) spokesperson Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum. Food is fuel, she says, and we've forgotten that.

Dr. Steinbaum was commenting on a new AHA study that shows downing fewer sugary drinks corresponds with a drop in blood pressure among hypertensive adults.

Further studies will show whether or not sugary drinks are responsible for a spike in blood pressure, but researchers expect to find a correlation.

Study leader Dr. Liwei Chen, assistant professor of epidemiology at Louisiana State University Health Science Center School of Public Health, says that cutbacks on highly sugared drinks could make a big difference in public health.

Salt has long been known to cause high blood pressure; now sugar's risks to the heart, namely heart disease and stroke, are coming to light as well.

On top of that, the sugar that's added to our food doesn't give us the kind of energy boost that food is meant to provide. Sugar actually destroys energy, according to Dr. Steinbaum, because we burn it fast, and the only thing that sticks around are the health problems.

Health expert Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum explained to NY1 News that sugar's impact on the heart is a relatively new problem that's come about with the modern food industry. "If you go back 500 years, there was no added sugar. What was in the food was there,” Teitelbaum said. “Since then, 18 percent of our calories or 150 pounds per person per year of sugar is added to our diet. You're going to see problems with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, in addition to obesity.”

Oy. So much for the "spoonful of sugar" theory. It might just be worthwhile to choke down the bitter medicine, and leave the lethal sweetener alone.

Uwe Hermann/Creative Commons via Flickr

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