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Cola Drinks May Boost Blood Pressure

Diet and Sugared Cola -- but Not Coffee -- Linked to High Blood Pressure

Identifying the Culprit

What's going on? There are ingredients in cola drinks -- corn syrup in sugared colas and caramel coloring in both sugared and diet colas -- that might cause high blood pressure. This is far from proven, Winkelmayer hastens to point out.

"Clearly, at this point, we need to be very careful and require further research to confirm this finding," he says. "If cola drinking is, in fact, a cause of high blood pressure, it would be important to identify the biological mechanism that makes this happen. We need to understand what it is that creates this link. This agent needs to be identified."

Even so, the link between cola and high blood pressure worries Richard Milani, MD, head of preventive cardiology at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans.

"The unexpected and rather alarming finding of this study is this very strong and increasing risk of high blood pressure as women drink more and more cola," Milani tells WebMD. "That is very, very concerning, because of the even larger amount of cola consumption in U.S. children. We don't see 10-year-olds drinking coffee, but we do see 6-year-olds drinking their weight in cola. This is an alarming finding."

Coffee Cleared

Though the findings aren't good news for people shoving quarters into soda machines, they're a relief to those queuing up for coffee.

Short-term studies show that people who drink coffee experience a rise in blood pressure. Doctors worried about what this might mean for people who drank a lot of coffee every day. But research suggests that these short-term effects don't persist in people who are used to drinking coffee every day. The current study shows this, Winkelmayer says.

"The message is particularly a good one for women who really enjoy drinking coffee -- in the morning, in the evening, or in large quantities," he says. "They can be relieved and quite certain that their behavior does not put them at risk for high blood pressure."

That fits with a 2002 study that found only a weak association between coffee consumption and high blood pressure in men. And it also fits with a 2000 study of Danish men and women, finding no increased risk of heart disease or death among coffee drinkers.

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