01 March 2011

Sugary drinks linked to high blood pressure

Scientists have linked drinking sugary drinks, like fizzy cola and fruit drinks with high blood pressure.

Scientists have linked drinking sugary drinks, like fizzy cola and fruit drinks with high blood pressure and say their findings suggest that cutting both sugar and salt intake could help reduce the risk.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide.

In a study involving more than 2,500 people, researchers found that for every extra can of sugary drink consumed per day, participants had higher systolic blood pressure by an average of 1.6 mmHg, and a higher diastolic reading by an average of 0.8 mmHg.

This difference was significant, even after adjusting for factors such as weight and height, the scientists wrote in Hypertension.

High consumption of sugar and salt

In the study, the link between sugary drinks and higher blood pressure was especially strong in people who consumed a lot of salt as well as sugar, the researchers said, supporting long-established findings that high salt intake can lead to high blood pressure.

Dr Paul Elliott of Imperial College London and colleagues analysed data from 2,696 volunteers aged between 40 and 59, in eight areas of the United States and two areas of Britain.

Over an average period of three weeks, the volunteers were asked four times to report what they had eaten in the preceding 24 hours, as well as giving urine samples and having their blood pressure measured.

Sugary drinks tied to unhealthy diet

The researchers also found that people who drink more sugary drinks tended to have more unhealthy diets in general. As well as eating more sugar, people who drank more than one sugary drink a day consumed more kilojoules on average, as well as less fibre and minerals.

Those who didn't drink sugary drinks had a lower body mass index (BMI) on average than those who drank more than one a day.

Study results "inconsequential"

In a statement, the American Beverage Association (ABA) said that the blood pressure differences seen in the study were "inconsequential," and that the study could not prove a cause-effect relationship.

Ian Brown, another Imperial College researcher who worked with Elliott and US colleagues, agreed that it could not establish causal links because it was a population study.

"It can't say definitively that sugary drinks raise your blood pressure, but it's one piece of the evidence in a jigsaw puzzle that needs to be completed," Brown said in a statement. - (Kate Kelland/Reuters Health, February 2011)

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Dr Jacomien de Villiers qualified as a specialist physician at the University of Pretoria in 1995. She worked at various clinics at the Department of Internal Medicine, Steve Biko Hospital, these include General Internal Medicine, Hypertension, Diabetes and Cardiology. She has run a private practice since 2001, as well as a consultant post at the Endocrine Clinic of Steve Biko Hospital.

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