Beyond salt: New evidence links fructose consumption to hypertension

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fructose-may-cause-hypertension(NaturalHealth365)  Hypertension is a serious problem in the United States, with almost half (47%) of all American adults diagnosed with the condition.  High blood pressure is defined as systolic blood pressure higher than 140 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure higher than 90 mmHg – or if they have hypertension controlled by medication.

Traditionally, doctors have warned hypertensive patients about sodium’s dangers, which has an illustrious history of causing and exacerbating high blood pressure.  However, a study suggests another culprit that can also raise blood pressure, a quite unexpected substance that can be just as harmful.

Fructose consumption has been linked to increased blood pressure in adults.  What’s more, the study found that children who had a high fructose diet when they were young may be more likely to experience hypertension when they are adults.

What is fructose, and what does it do to the body?

Fructose is a naturally occurring monosaccharide that comes from fruits but can also be produced endogenously in the body when the polyol pathway is activated.  It is also the base for high fructose corn syrup.  Fructose is very similar in structure to glucose, but the way it affects the body is quite different.

In ancient times fructose was a survival substance regardless of how it was supplied to the body.  Once it is in the body, it begins to move toward fuel storage, including glycogen and fat.  This is so that the fuel can be used later to provide water and energy.  Fructose causes the body to retain sodium which increases blood pressure.

While that can be harmful now, in that time, it aided survival in an environment where salt deprivation and dehydration were the norm.  It essentially shifts the production of energy to glycolysis.  This is another survival tool because it reduces the body’s demand for oxygen which worked well in places where oxygen was low.

Today, a diet high in fructose can be harmful because the body does not have the same demands it once did.  A diet high in fructose up-regulates sodium transporters which can cause an increase in blood pressure.  It also inactivates vasodilators while activating vasoconstrictors and can increase appetite and cause thirst.

When it is combined with other substances to form high fructose corn syrup, that’s when it gets really bad.

What the studies found

The study used subjects from the CARDIA study, which examined cardiovascular risk factors in both Caucasian and African American young adults between the ages of 17 and 35 at the time of enrollment.  The researchers obtained both dietary data and blood pressure at the time of enrollment for this study.  The dietary information quantified both sodium and fructose, while the blood pressure information was taken at several points throughout the study, at seven years, 15 years, and 30 years.

The consumption of sodium and fructose had a significant impact on the prediction of a higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure at year 30 of the follow-up.  The conclusion was that a diet high in sodium and fructose during adolescence may have a significant impact on blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic, later in life.

Another study found that consuming it during pregnancy could be a factor in the woman developing preeclampsia.  While fructose is vital to fetal development and produced in the body (and production is increased while the woman is pregnant), if the higher production does not return to normal or if the woman’s diet consists of fructose and its derivatives, it can lead to the condition which includes high blood pressure.

The scientific evidence certainly points to the probability that high consumption of fructose can lead to high blood pressure.  The best way to avoid this is to read your labels.  Know the names of fructose.  One of the most notorious is high fructose corn syrup which is a man-made sweetener that has been linked to a number of health problems.  You may also see it as fruit sugar, levulose, d-fructofuranose, d-fructose, or d-arabino-hexulose.  Be sure to avoid all highly processed foods and stick to food that is as close to fresh, organic and whole as you can get.

High fructose corn syrup is in so many things, including candy, soda, coffee creamer, frozen meals, ready-to-drink teas and coffee, sweetener alternatives, cereals, flavored oatmeal, and more.  Even products labeled “healthy” could contain HFC.  Bottom line, read your labels diligently and avoid processed foods as much as possible.

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