It’s a common misconception that people must cut down on salt intake to reduce the risk of stroke, which causes about 3 million deaths annually all over the world. However, in new studies, researchers found that, in fact, sugar is more to blame for raised blood pressure than salt.
The belief that blood pressure rises due to a high salt intake and leads to heart troubles is not as scientifically backed as we would believe, according to James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD, of Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, Kansas City, and Sean C. Lucan, MD, MPH, of Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, New York. They published their findings in the BMJ Open Heart. What their research showed was that lowering salt intake to keep blood pressure low was more a myth and not based on evidence.
Sugar and High Blood Pressure
Various studies have shown that cutting back on sugar plays a key role in reducing high blood pressure, and making changes to your diet can help you avoid high sugar intake and, in turn, heart disease risks. These studies have proven that as much as salt has played a small part in heart-stopping conditions, sugar can increase the risk for developing heart diseases even more easily. While many people know how dangerous high cholesterol or blood pressure can be, very few people know how harmful sugar is in the rising blood pressure game.
An 18-month research program conducted at Louisiana State University followed 810 people who either were without high blood pressure or were in the early stages of high blood pressure. The goal of this study was to check how regular exercise, weight management, and diet affected blood pressure. The results reported that cutting down on sugar-reduced blood pressure. The study also found that overweight people, with high blood pressure, who drank one less serving of sugary soda every day showed a remarkable decline in their blood pressure. This is good news because high blood pressure is the main cause of heart diseases as well as strokes, and a slight decline in blood pressure can lower this risk significantly.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) collected data from 2003 to 2006 and reported that an average American consumed 83.1 grams of sugar a day. This data also cited a recently conducted analysis of trials that showed a higher sugar intake led to higher systolic (6.9 mm Hg, P<0.0001) and diastolic blood pressure (5.6 mm Hg, P=0.0005) versus lower sugar intake in trials of eight weeks or more.
Many trials reported that fructose was bad for the cardiovascular system. A crossover study that included young healthy adults ranging from 21 to 33 years old showed that intake of a fructose solution increased systolic blood pressure. This is a clear indication of how sugar affects cardiovascular health as well as the overall well-being of youngsters and adults.
The American researchers believe high sugar levels directly affect the hypothalamus, the key area of the brain that quickens the heartbeat and raises the blood pressure. High sugar intake also leads to an increase in insulin production, which speeds up the heart rate, and if not stopped, eventually increases the risk of heart diseases.
Many studies show absolutely no connection between salt consumption and high blood pressure. However, the best thing to prove this is for people who suffer from hypertension to check it out for themselves. Begin with a reduction in salt intake for two weeks without doing anything else and then observe whether it makes any difference on their blood pressure or not. If nothing happens, the next thing to do is to stop eating sugar, including refined sugar as well as refined carbohydrates for two weeks. It’s important to check on the good carbs as well as the bad carbs, and the different effects they have on the body’s blood sugar levels to get the right results.
Dr. DiNicolantonio, a heart disease research scientist, believes along with many other researchers, that salt isn’t a factor in high BP. Instead of salt, it’s sugar that increases the risk of diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases. He says that the reasons for these claims are complicated, but it is fact that low salt levels increase the number of certain fats in the blood, and some fats are harmful.
In addition, a historical look at the evolution of the American diet in the 20th century shows the clear influence of refined carbohydrates on people who suffer from high blood pressure. This trend continues to increase, as does the rise of chronic diseases in various countries.