Put that diet soda down and grab a mango smoothie! Fruit sugar is not the enemy.
A recent study shows that sweet drinks are linked to high blood pressure, but, contrary to previous research, fructose in drinks did not stand out as a driving factor. Carbonated and cola drinks are most strongly linked to risk of hypertension, study researchers reported to the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
“We don’t know what causes the increased risk in artificial- or sugar-sweetened beverages,” Dr. Lisa Cohen, lead author of the study and researcher at the University of Maryland Medical Center, told Reuters Health. “It’s hard to say that from the fructose itself you’re increasing your hypertension risk,” she added.
The researchers followed more than 200,000 men and women for up to 38 years and found a rise of about 13 percent in the risk of developing high blood pressure for those that regularly consumed sweetened drinks, either containing sugars or artificially sweetened. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 30 of every 100 adults have hypertension. A 13 percent increase in the population’s risk would boost that number to about 34 in 100, according to Reuters Health.
“You would think if fructose were the causative factor, then eating a lot of apples (for example) would also increase your risk of hypertension,” Cohen told Reuters Health.
The study found that among the people who consumed 15 percent of their calories from fructose sources other than drinks, the risk of hypertension was lower or the same as people who ate very little fructose. Exotic fruit and juices, common within the Latino heritage, are actually beneficial to a healthy lifestyle.
“Tropical or any other 100 percent juice blends, and the fresh fruit (even better) can contribute important vitamins and mineral to our diet,” says Judith Rodriguez, professor of nutrition at the University of North Florida.
The researchers took into account other lifestyle factors such as intake of alcohol, fats, fiber, and exercise and smoking, as well as adjusted for weight changed over the period of the study and family histories of hypertension.
“It’s tough because you can’t prove causation,” says Cristina Rivera, registered dietician with Nutrition in Motion. “If you’re really worried about high blood pressure, start looking at lifestyle changes,” she adds.
The researchers speculated the link between carbonated sweet drinks and increased hypertension risk might be explained by larger serving sizes or some other unknown ingredient common to all of them.
“Let’s focus on what we do know causes high blood pressure,” says Rivera. “There’s no reason to give up the juice that you love,” she adds.