Sweet Heart?

Unfortunately, I have some bitter news for all those with a sweet tooth. You may not realize it, but most of you are high fructose corn syrup enthusiasts. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is running rampant throughout most grocery stores today, and according to a recent study found in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, it is independently associated with elevated blood pressure measurements among U.S. adults with no previous history of hypertension. Hypertension can potentially lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. It accounts for an estimated 7.1 million deaths worldwide every year.

Published July 1, 2010, this article illustrates the association between fructose intake and elevations in blood pressure over time in persons with no known history of high blood pressure. It found that the median fructose intake was 74 grams per day, which is about equal to 2.5 sugary soft drinks per day. A normal and ideal blood pressure is 120/80, and this study showed that a fructose consumption of greater than or equal to 74 grams per day lead to a 77% higher risk for a blood pressure cutoff of greater than or equal to 160/100.

Where can you find HFCS? Sadly, it is in just about everything you find at the grocery store these days. HFCS is a preservative and prolongs the shelf life of many foods quite nicely. It is also cheaper than pure sugar, thereby making it a very appealing ingredient to large manufacturers of fruit-flavored drinks, sodas, and many, many other processed foods. Check any ingredients label on any processed food, and you’re likely to come across it.

Another recent study published in Circulation, from the Journal of the American Heart Association, reiterates the connection between sugar and blood pressure levels. The title of this study says it all, and is called “Reducing Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages is Associated With Reduced Blood Pressure”. This study discovered that a reduction in sugar-sweetened beverages of 1 serving per day was associated with a 1.8 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure and a 1.1 mm Hg reduction in diastolic blood pressure over 18 months.

Taking this all into perspective, it appears as though the American diet is a major culprit in the numerous primary care office visits involving hypertension. HFCS has also been known to be a potential causative factor for obesity, metabolic syndrome, and the development of diabetes. It is up to the American people and America’s finest doctors to educate each other and themselves about excessive sugar consumption and take any and all precautions necessary to fight this epidemic. Some tips can be found below.

  • Avoid foods that are processed

  • Drink less soda, or completely avoid it

  • Eliminate canned fruit with heavy syrup

  • Eat fresh fruit instead of fruit-flavored drinks; it’s much more satisfying!

  • Next time you pick up a can of soda, think about your health


1.    Diana I. Jalal, Gerard Smits, Richard J. Johnson, and Michel Chonchol Increased Fructose Associates with Elevated Blood Pressure J. Am. Soc. Nephrol., first published on July 1, 2010 as doi: doi:10.1681/ASN.2009111111

2.    Chen, et al. Reducing Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Is Associated With Reduced Blood Pressure Circulation: J. Am. Heart. Assoc., first published on May 24, 2010 as doi: doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.911164