Up until quite recently, the received wisdom was that high blood pressure (hypertension) was generally idiopathic (of unknown origin) in most cases. Excess excess salt could increase any tendency to hypertension, but in general other foods had little effect.
A number of studies dating from 2014 have now shown that excess sugar is as bad or worse than salt in the diet. If you think of our ancestors who ate large amounts of salted food, but rarely suffered hypertension, this may make sense.
It is believed that sugar (especially fruit sugar/fructose) raises blood pressure chiefly by it’s effect in increasing insulin levels in the blood. Chronically raised insulin can,
- Increase the development of smooth muscles around arteries (insulin is a growth hormone)
- Triggers the sympathetic nervous system – the “flight and fight” part of the autonomic nervous system
- Reduces the sensitivity of the body’s blood pressure monitoring receptors
- Depletes the body’s store of ATP (the energy “currency” of cells) leading to artery constriction
So we may all do worse than limiting our sugar consumption, particularly fruit sugar (whole fruit is fine though). Watch out for the following on food labels as these are ALL SUGARS and limit your intake –
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Corn Syrup
- Golden Syrup
- Fruit Juice (yes really!!)
- Barley Malt