A recent study published in the July, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology found that people who eat a diet high in fructose may be at an increased risk of developing high blood pressure. Cutting back on certain food products may be the only way to decrease this risk.
What is Fructose?
According to the Mayo Clinic of Rochester, MN, fructose is sugar found naturally in fresh fruits, honey and some syrup. Fructose is also a component of table sugar. Additionally, the sweetener sorbitol, a sugar alcohol, is converted into fructose in the body during normal digestion. Many processed foods and beverages contain fructose, such as fruit juices, sports drinks, sweetened milk, flavored water and non-diet sodas.
The American Heart Association (AHA), concerned with the high quantity of fructose and other added sugar in food products and its affect on the American diet, recommends that women not exceed 100 calories a day of added sugar and men not exceed 150 calories a day. However, the average American consumes more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar – 355 calories – each day from the foods they eat. This much added sugar in the diet can lead to obesity, tooth decay, poor nutrition, increase in triglycerides, and high blood pressure.
Study of Fructose in the Diet
Concerned with the rising numbers of people from developed countries acquiring high blood pressure, researchers searched to find which environmental factors were contributing to this dangerous health condition. Seeing a dramatic rise in the consumption of food products containing fructose paralleling the rise in high blood pressure, researchers from the University of Colorado Denver Health Sciences Center decided to look for a correlation between the two. Analyzing data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 2003 to 2006, the researchers found the connection they were looking for. The study consisted of 4,528 U.S. participants over the age of 18 and who had no history of high blood pressure. The participants answered questions about the foods they consumed. At the completion of the study, it was found that people who had consumed 74 grams or more of fructose per day, the amount of two non-diet soft drinks, were:
- At a 26 percent higher risk of having a blood pressure of 135/85
- At a 30 percent higher risk of having a blood pressure of 140/90
- At a 77 percent higher risk of having a blood pressure of 160/100
Since a normal blood pressure reading is 120/80, these people were at a higher risk of a heart attack or stroke. However, the lead author of the study, Diana Jalal, MD, states that more studies have to be done to prove that a diet low in fructose will lower the risk of high blood pressure.
Lowering the Risk of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is the most common chronic condition in developed countries like the U.S. and can put a person at risk for heart disease and kidney disease. Lowering the amount of sugar intake is a good start at trying to lower the risk for developing high blood pressure. The Mayo Clinic suggests the following for lowering fructose in the diet:
- Drink less non-diet soda
- Avoid foods with added sugar
- Limit processed foods
- Eat fresh fruit and avoid high sugar fruit juices
- If buying canned fruit, choose fruit canned in own juices instead of in syrup
- Eat all types of sugar in moderation
Eating foods containing fructose or sugar in moderation is fine, but a steady diet of it may cause health problems. Eating a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, protein and whole grains is the best way to keep the body healthy.
Journal of the American Society of Nephrology “Increased Fructose Associates with Elevated Blood Pressure” Retrieved July 15, 2010.
ScienceDaily.com “High Fructose Diet May Contribute to High Blood Pressure, Study Finds” Retrieved July 16, 2010.
MayoClinic.com “High-fructose corn syrup: What are the concerns?” Retrieved July 16, 2010.
MayoClinic.com “Fructose intolerance: Which foods should I avoid?” Retrieved July 16, 2010.