Does Sugar Raise Blood Pressure?

Sugar – “Sweet” Star or Villain?

Sugar lumps in bowl

Salt – especially the refined table salt variety – has been considered for decades to be the ‘Villain in the Plot’ when it came to food additives and flavourings which had an adverse affect on blood pressure and the cardiovascular system as a whole.

But now the pendulum is starting to swing in another direction, and towards another common food additive, which is fast being tagged as not only the cause of increasing obesity, diabetes and heart disease, but also the direct cause of high blood pressure itself.

Yes, I am referring to the lowly monosaccharide or disaccharide molecule, more familiarly known as SUGAR!


The Many Faces of Sugar

In today’s diet Sugar can come in many shapes and forms. There are the so called simple sugars (Monosaccharides) such as the Fructose found in fruits, some vegetables, honey and cane sugar and Glucose found naturally in fruit and plant juices.

Then there are the compound sugars (Disaccharides) represented by Sucrose*, Lactose and Maltose – from sugar cane and sugar beet, milk and grains respectively. (* Sucrose is actually formed by a combination of a molecule of fructose and a molecule of glucose)

And then there are a whole bunch of other sugar-derived products used by the food industry including, but not limited to, granulated sugar, liquid sugar and syrups, molasses and invert sugars, as well as alcohol derived sugars, and even of course the whole gamut of chemically produced sugars called artificial sweeteners.

If you go to the grocery store you will be very hard pressed to find an item, particularly in the processed and packaged food aisles, which does not include one form of sugar or another.

Check out the video below to see what I mean.

video courtesy Daily Mail

Even the vegetables the mother finds in the store come with their own sources of sugar, but at least it is natural and digests much more slowly due to the soluble fibre content of the veggies.


So, Does Sugar Raise Blood Pressure?  

Can sugar affect blood pressure? What do the research and studies say about this.  Well, in a word –

Yes!

There is a growing body of evidence – from studies conducted and from research – that in actuality Sugar has a more harmful effect on blood pressure than Salt.

In a 2014 review and statistical analysis of the results of all the international scientific studies (published in English in  journals between 1965 and 2013) which looked at the difference in impact between high sugar consumption and low sugar consumption on blood pressure and cholesterol,  a group of researchers from New Zealand’s University of Otago discovered  that a high sugar diet does indeed play a role in cardiovascular risk.

As Dr Te Morenga, one of the research fellows conducting the analysis, commented:

“our latest study did find significant effects of sugars on lipids and blood pressure among these types of energy-controlled studies.”

And she went on to add something which is rather interesting:

“In subgroup analyses we showed that by excluding the trials funded by the food/sugar industry, we found larger effects of sugar on lipids and blood pressure.”

The inference here is that those trial actually funded by the Food/Sugar Industry were much less likely to find any significant relationship between a sugar-rich diet and health issues – for obvious reasons!

How does sugar actually raise blood pressure?

The mechanism by which sugar consumption affects blood pressure is not entirely clear yet.  However, it has been suggested by some researchers that high levels of sugar have an effect on the Hypothalamus which in turn causes heart rate to increase and blood pressure to rise.  Additionally the effect of sugar on insulin production in the body also comes into play here:

“Consuming sugar increases insulin levels, which activates the sympathetic nervous system, leading to increases in heart rate and blood pressure,” James J. DiNicolantonio, lead author of the study and a cardiovascular research scientist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri, USA.

Further, according to Dr DiNicolantonio;

“Sugar also depletes the molecule ATP [adenosine triphosphate], which in turn, reduces nitric oxide — our most potent vasodilator in the body.   This increases blood pressure, and increases the formation of methylglyoxal, which vasoconstricts our blood vessels, increasing blood pressure.”

So, the overall conclusion about sugar consumption certainly becomes clear in this research. It causes a whole host of problems for the body as soon as we try to break it down and metabolize it!!  And raising blood pressure in just one of those side effects.


What to do?

Sugar is around us everywhere the food we eat and in the beverages we drink!  What are we supposed to do?

Well, we do have more control over this than perhaps we might imagine.  Here are a few suggestions to help reduce sugar’s impact on the body.

  1. Avoid as much as possible all processed and packaged foods, fast foods and sugary drinks such such as sodas, and diet sodas.  Processed foods have very high levels of sugar in them and in some very harmful forms, such as high fructose corn syrup.  And artificial sweeteners contain harmful chemicals which are no better for your body!
  2. Try to avoid drinking a lot of fruit juice, rather opting for vegetable juices, or preferably make your own smoothies. This way the fruit or vegetable  fibre content is also present in the drink which then helps to mediate the effect of sugar absorption so the body can better deal with it.
  3. Eat more of the healthy carbohydrates, the ones which convert to sugar more slowly such as fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes (lentils and beans).strawberries in bolw
  4. Manage your sweet and dessert cravings by eating fresh fruit.  Strawberries in particular are good for this, as they are low in carbs and have a minimal effect on raising blood sugar levels.
  5. Make sure you are drinking enough good quality (filtered) water each day (6 to 8 cups) in lieu of other drinks, many of which contain high levels of sugar,  including alcohol.  Additionally, the diuretic effect of sugary sodas containing caffeine can play a role in negatively impacting blood pressure – as, too, can diuretic medications actually used to control blood pressure.
  6. Choose sweeteners which are generally considered to be the least detrimental.  Yes, there are a few available such as Stevia, Xylitol, Erythritol and Yacon Syrup.  For more details on these, click here

The Verdictdick dastardly

So, to conclude this review of the effects of sugar on blood pressure, I put Sugar firmly in the role of Villain in the plot!!


I hope this article provided you with some interesting and informative insights.  Please feel free to leave some feedback below if you would like to comment on this post.

8 Comments

  1. Helen

    Oh my gosh, I agree so strongly with your conclusion! Sugar is so evil!!
    The most horrid part about it all is that sugar is a basic ingredient in almost all ‘normal’ food nowadays. And you can tell, too. Just look around! People just look sick.
    I fell will to a couple chronic illnesses when I was in high school and had to eliminate all sugars in my diet because even a little bit was proving to be highly strenuous for my crippled digestive system. I couldn’t even eat fruit or starchy vegetables like potatoes!
    But let me tell you, after my body adjusted to the massive lifestyle changing that was moving to eating totally whole foods, I felt amazing!! Thats the first thing I recommend when people say they are having a hard time with their health.
    People really underestimate the importance of the fuel they feed their body. The saying, “You are what you eat!” has never been more true.

    Thanks for the good read,

    xx

    Helen

    Reply
    1. Nick (Post author)

      I think more and more people are waking up to the fact that sugar in their diets is a very unhealthy thing.  And cutting down on the amount consumed at an early age, like you were forced to, is the best thing you can do for your future health.  
      The sugar industry has pulled the wool over consumers’ eyes for way too long!!
      My cousin – in his late sixties – has recently started experiencing an allergic reaction to sugar whenever he eats sweets or desserts, or even drinks a beer.  He now breaks out into hives and severe itchy skin which can go on for hours on end.  I guess his body can no longer handle the toxicity of the sugar in his system.
      I really appreciate your comments, Helen!  Hopefully many more people will realize that making this one change to their eating habits will lead to a healthier and happier life! 

      Reply
  2. Rob S.

    I always knew that too much salt raises your blood pressure.
    When I was diagnosed with diabetes I learned that sugar is even worse for your blood pressure.
    Everyone should know how bad sugar is for you. It can wreak havoc on your body. I learned that the hard way and now I have to watch my blood sugar levels for diabetes but I also keep close tabs on my blood pressure.
    It’s great that you pointed out about the evils of sugar. There are so many foods that have sugar that most folks don’t even know about. Thanks for some very important health information!

    Reply
    1. Nick (Post author)

      Hi Rob,

      So pleased to read your comment on my post about sugar. Thanks for this!!  
      It’s so important for people to wake up and realize how bad sugar is for one’s health.  It has taken me several years to come to a full appreciation of this.
      I started by giving up white sugar in favour of less refined brown sugar, then I cut out all foods with high fructose corn syrup in them. Finally, it dawned on me that sugar is sugar is sugar, and it’s all basically bad for us.  
      What scares me is the amount of sugar the younger people are taking in with the unhealthy processed/fast food diets and all the pop they drink.  Hopefully this trend can be turned around through continued education.  

      Reply
  3. Roy

    I never knew that sugar could raise one’s blood pressure. Sure I knew that sugar makes us fat, we all know that, and when we get too fat, that can cause a rise in blood pressure , but I didn’t realise that simply by having too much sugar in the blood could cause high blood pressure.
    Salt yes, because it absorbs the water in our blood and this causes the blood to thicken.
    But sugar ????

    Reply
    1. Nick (Post author)

       

      Hi Roy

      Thanks for your comment!

      Yes, I know that a lot of people are still having a hard time believing sugar can be so bad for the human body. 

      This is in large part due to the Sugar Industry pulling of a brilliant coup in the 1960’s when interest was being focussed upon sugar and its effect on diet.  

      The Sugar Lobbyists of the day were able to persuade Harvard Researchers to take the attention off sugar by publishing a study with fake data which blamed naturally occurring fats instead as the potential cause of heart disease.  

      And so for 40 odd years sugar went under the radar and was progressively added in all its various forms to all sorts of foods and drinks.  

      Thankfully, the truth about the harmful effects of sugar on the body is finally coming out.  

      Reply
  4. Norman

    High blood pressure is something that is so wide spread and there are so many people on a daily basis that is in doctor’s office seeking help when we have the remedies right at our fingertip such as what you are sharing in this post.
    The saying is true we are what we eat and one of the only way to beat this issue is to have the proper diet. Your post is a great help.

    Reply
    1. Nick (Post author)

      Hi Norman

      Yes, indeed if there is none thing which people can do to help manage their blood pressure it is to take a serious look at their diets.  The DASH diet has worked extraordinarily well for many people and some have also found the added bonus of being able to lose weight whilst on this diet, which is a win-win situation,  as obesity is also a cause of elevated BP.  It’s great to read that you share my philosophy of finding natural solutions for blood pressure management because, if a person looks hard enough, they will find something in the natural world which will help them.  And if my posts are assisting others to find such solutions, then I am truly gratified..  Thank you so much for joining the discussion leaving me a comment on this subject. 

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)