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Cola Drinks May Boost Blood Pressure

Diet and Sugared Cola -- but Not Coffee -- Linked to High Blood Pressure
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 8, 2005 - Women who drink lots of coffee can relax. But those who drink lots of cola may have a problem: high blood pressure.

High blood pressure isn't good. It's linked to heart disease and stroke. There's been a lot of worry that everyday coffee drinkers may be at increased risk of high blood pressure.

But that doesn't seem to be the case. Recent studies found little risk among coffee-swilling men. Now data from the two large Nurses Health studies -- which followed some 155,000 women for 12 years -- show that heavy coffee drinkers don't risk developing high blood pressure.

There was, however, an entirely unexpected finding. Women who drank just one caffeinated cola drink every day had a slightly higher risk of high blood pressure. And that risk went up as women drank more daily colas, says researcher Wolfgang C. Winkelmayer, MD, ScD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard University in Boston.

"We did find an association between consumption of cola beverages, whether regular or diet, and increased risk of high blood pressure," Winkelmayer tells WebMD. "No previous studies suggested such an association. But the finding was consistent, both for younger and older women. We were very surprised."

Colas in the study included Coke, Pepsi, and other dark-colored sodas.

Winkelmayer and colleagues report their findings in the Nov. 9 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Cola Accused

The study shows a strong link between high blood pressure and caffeinated cola consumption. But it doesn't prove cola drinks cause high blood pressure.

Even so, cola drinking remained a risk factor even when the researchers compared only women matched for age, weight, alcohol use, previous trouble with high blood pressure, use of birth control pills, physical activity, smoking, and use of other classes of beverages.

Compared with women who drank less than a can of regular cola a day:

  • Women who drank one can of cola a day increased their high blood pressure risk by 9% in the first Nurses Health Study and by 13% in the second Nurses Health Study.
  • Women who drank two to three cans of cola a day had an 11% higher risk in the first study and a 24% higher risk in the second study.
  • Women who drank four or more cans of cola a day had a 44% higher risk in the first study and a 28% higher risk in the second study.

Compared with women who drank less than a can of diet cola a day:

  • Women who drank one can of diet cola a day increased their high blood pressure risk by 7% in the first Nurses Health Study and by 5% in the second Nurses Health Study.
  • Women who drank two to three cans of diet cola a day had a 6% higher risk in the first study and a 9% higher risk in the second study.
  • Women who drank four or more cans of cola a day had a 16% higher risk in the first study and a 19% higher risk in the second study.

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