Jul 18, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Sugar May Be Worse for Blood Pressure Than Salt

Dec 12, 2014 07:08 PM EST

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Both sugar and salt have gotten bad publicity over the years, at least as far as a healthy diet is concerned. Sugary food consumption has been linked to diabetes and obesity, while excessive intake of salt and salty foods has been associated with cardiovascular illnesses, particularly high blood pressure. However, a recent study puts sugar in an even worse light, as it claims that sugar may increase blood pressure more than salt does.

Researchers from the St. Luke's Mid America Heart Institute and Montefiore Medical Center arrived at the conclusion that sugar, fructose especially, may have a stronger impact in high blood pressure and numerous other heart health problems than salt does after evaluating various evidence on the said topic using human research, animal studies and experiments.

While U.S. experts upon understanding the health risks of sugar consumption advised to place a greater focus on cutting sugar intake and suggested the benefits of lowering salt levels. The researchers, however, said that the said recommendation was "debatable" as lowering salt consumption under certain levels may do more harm than good and suggested that attempts to reduce salt in processed food may drive people to eat more.

Despite the agreement that both compounds are not good for the health in excessive consumption, some disagree that focus should be put more on one than the other.

Prof. Francessco Cappuccio, at the University of Warwick, said: "The emphasis on reducing sugar and not salt is disingenuous. "Both should be targeted at population level for an effective approach to cardiovascular prevention. The shift in attention from salt to sugar is scientifically unnecessary and unsupported."

Prof. Tom Saunders, at King's College London, said: "Cutting salt intake and losing weight will lower blood pressure, but the evidence for a direct effect of added sugar is tenuous. Salt intake has fallen in the UK as manufacturers have reduced the amount of salt added to food."

"This has also been accompanied by a fall in blood pressure. Added sugar intake is derived mainly from sugar-sweetened beverages, confectionery, cereal products such as cakes and biscuits. The easiest way to reduce added sugar intake is to limit sugar-sweetened beverage and confectionery consumption."

Data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey in England suggests most adults and children eat more sugar than recommended. The World Health Organization recommends sugars should make up less than 10% of total energy intake per day - this works out at about a maximum of 50g (1.7oz) of sugar for the average adult.

The American Heart Association suggests limiting the intake of added sugars daily to half of an individual's discretionary allowance, which means around 9 teaspoons of sugar a day for men, and for around 6 teaspoons a day for women.

The results of the study were published in this week's issue of the journal Open Heart.

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