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Cut Back on Sodas to Lower Blood Pressure

Drinking Fewer Sweetened Drinks Reduces Blood Pressure, Study Finds

Sodium, Uric Acid Affect Blood Pressure continued...

Exactly what accounts for this independent effect is not known, but several theories exist. For example, these beverages are often loaded with sodium, which can increase blood pressure, and the sugar in the drinks may increase levels of hormones known as catecholamines, which can cause blood pressure to rise.

George Bakris, MD, a professor of medicine and director of the Hypertension Center at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, says that uric acid also plays a role.

“High fructose corn syrup increases uric acid levels, which has been shown to increase high blood pressure,” says Bakris, who is also the president of the American Society of Hypertension.

“Read labels because high fructose corn syrup has to be listed on the label,” he says. “If you even reduce what you are taking in by 50% over time, you will see a benefit,” he says.

It’s not just soft drinks either. “It’s in ketchup and a lot of condiments and sauces that people eat and don’t appreciate,” he says.

More Fuel for the ‘Soda Tax’

“There is a mile-long list of studies that show the negative impact of consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, and this study is more proof that something needs to be done to change the disease burden caused by these drinks," says Kelly Brownell, PhD, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. He advocates a tax on these beverages.

As it stands, up to 20 cities and states are considering imposing such a levy on soda. “None of the taxes have passed yet, but it is just a matter of time,” he says.

Beverage Group Responds

“This study does not show that there is anything unique about drinking sugar-sweetened beverages that leads to increased blood pressure, or that there is something unique about reducing their consumption that leads to reduced blood pressure,” says Maureen Storey, PhD, senior vice president of the American Beverage Association in Washington, D.C.

“We know that losing weight by decreasing total calories consumed from all foods and beverages and increasing total calories burned through physical activity has the greatest effect on blood pressure, not the specific foods or beverages that are decreased,” she says in a written response.

“It’s important to recognize that this particular study is a secondary analysis of another study designed to look at the impact of weight loss -- not reducing or eliminating specific foods or beverages -- on blood pressure,” she says. “This study only further supports that weight loss is a critical factor to lowering blood pressure. And the key to losing weight involves either decreasing total calories consumed or increasing total calories burned or a combination of the two."

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