Friday, October 21, 2011

Drinks with high amount of sugar may increase blood pressure

Drinking sugar-sweetened sodas and fruit drinks appears to be associated with a greater risk for high blood pressure among adults, a new study suggests.
The research team says that both the glucose and fructose found in such drinks are implicated in the linkage.
The findings "suggest that individuals who consume more soda and other sugar-sweetened soft drinks may have higher blood pressure levels than those who consume less," said study author Ian J. Brown, a research associate in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics with the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. "And the problem may be exacerbated by higher salt intake, an important cause of high blood pressure in itself."
"We also found that men and women who consumed one or more sugar-sweetened beverages a day tended to be heavier, consume more calories, and have less healthy diets than those who consumed none," Brown added.
Brown and his colleagues report their findings in the Feb. 28 issue of Hypertension.
To explore the potential for a link between sugar-sweetened drinks and high blood pressure, the authors analyzed the consumption patterns of nearly 2,700 American and British men and women between the ages of 40 and 59.
Diet diaries covering food, sugars, sugar-sweetened drinks and diet drinks were completed over a four-day period for each study participants. Detailed questionnaires focusing on a range of lifestyle, medical and social factors were also completed. Urine samples and blood pressure readings were taken throughout the study period.
The team observed that those who drank more than one sugar-sweetened beverage a day had the highest sugar consumption (whether glucose, fructose or sucrose) and the highest calorie consumption, at an average of about 400 extra calories a day.
Those drinking more than one sugar-sweetened beverage a day also registered higher average body-mass indexes (BMI) compared with those who drank none, suggesting that those who consumed such drinks also consumed less healthy foods.
And as for blood pressure, for every serving (355-milliliters) of sugar-sweetened beverage consumed per day, there was a significant bump in both systolic and diastolic readings (+1.6 and +0.8, respectively), even after adjusting for BMI.
What's more, the association between drinking a sugar-sweetened drink and having higher blood pressure appeared to be even stronger among those who also had higher dietary sodium intake.
Drinking a diet beverage, however, was actually linked to a slight drop in blood pressure (although this finding did not meet "statistical significance"), while caffeine consumption appeared to have no impact on blood pressure.
"Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption has been linked to high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease risk," said Brown. "So we suggest that if individuals want to drink these beverages, they do so only in moderation."
For those who wish to follow American Heart Association guidelines, Brown noted that a moderate amount would translate to roughly three 12-ounce cans per week for individuals who routinely consume about 2,000 calories a day.
"Better still," he advised, "choose heart-healthy alternatives such as water or unsweetened teas."
Dr. Sahil Parikh, a cardiologist at the Harrington-McLaughlin Heart and Vascular Institute at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, said the findings "fall along the lines of the kind of common sense your mother would offer."
"We have long known that sugary drinks are bad for you, because they are a lot of empty calories," he said. "But what makes this study important is that it suggests that beyond just making you fatter these drinks also prompt hypertension, which can increase the incidence of heart attack and stroke."
"Now we will need to have future studies to understand how this works," Parikh added, "because even though this data shows a pretty clear association between sugary drinks and high blood pressure, it doesn't definitively suggest a mechanistic link."
"Having said that, as a cardiologist my concern is how do we minimize our risk factors for cardiovascular events," he continued. "And we know the way to do that is to avoid tobacco use and avoid obesity. So to the extent that one can control calorie intake, there really isn't a downside to eliminating sugar drinks. They're empty calories of limited value. So why not do that?"
In response to the latest findings, the American Beverage Association issued a statement Monday saying that while high blood pressure is "a serious health concern," the current study "does not and cannot establish that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages in any way causes hypertension."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hidden salt may increase blood pressure

A Sunday dinner with all the trimmings can contain nearly 10 grams of salt – 4 grams more than an adult’s maximum for the entire day!
In the largest survey of its kind, BPA 'sister' charity Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) looked at nearly 600 roast dinner products and found families could be consuming excessively high levels of salt in their Sunday roasts.

Ready-made options such as stuffed joints may help save time but can be full of unnecessary salt. When eaten with ready made gravy, stuffing, vegetables, Yorkshire puddings, condiments and a dessert, this could easily exceed an adult’s maximum recommended salt intake for a whole day (6g) and far exceed the daily maximum for a child.

And it’s not just the meat that can be high in salt. For example, a portion of Morrisons’ or Tesco’s English Mustard contains 0.5g of salt, as much as a packet of crisps.
You could also be consuming a huge amount of salt when you go out for your Sunday roast. For instance, according to their website, a Large Half Roast Chicken meal from a Wetherspoon pub contains 8g of salt, more than an adult's daily salt recommendation in just one meal. Even a Children’s Roast Chicken Breast meal contains 4g, almost all of the daily maximum for a 7-10 year old (5g).

“A family roast dinner can be a balanced and healthy meal but you do need to be careful when choosing ready prepared ingredients which can all contain a lot of salt” says Katharine Jenner, CASH Campaign Manager.
Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of CASH (and the BPA) said: “This puts both adults and children at risk of developing high blood pressure which causes strokes, heart attacks and heart failure, the commonest cause of death & disability in the UK. It is the food industry’s responsibility to take the salt out.”
The Blood Pressure Association recommends buying fresh if possible, and if you are buying pre-prepared foods, check out the labels for salt content.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Study hard, get a degree and save your blood pressure

Despite exam stress, a long stint in education is good for people’s blood pressure, according to researchers in the US.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is linked to heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.
The study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, shows the link is stronger in women than in men.
The British Heart Foundation said the findings supported the link between deprivation and heart disease risk.
Higher levels of education have been linked to lower levels of heart disease. The researchers suggest that blood pressure could be the reason why.

The study looked at 30 years of data from 3,890 people who were being followed as part of the Framingham Offspring Study.
People were divided into three groups, low education (12 years or less), middle education (13 to 16 years) and high education (17 years or more).
The average systolic blood pressure for the 30 year period was then calculated.

Women with low education had a blood pressure 3.26 mmHg higher than those with a high level of education. In men the difference was 2.26 mmHg.
Other factors, such as smoking, taking blood pressure medication and drinking, were taken into consideration and the effect on blood pressure remained, although at a much lower level.
Writing in the journal, the researchers says: “Low educational attainment has been demonstrated to predispose individuals to high strain jobs, characterised by high levels of demand and low levels of control, which have been associated with elevated blood pressure.”
Professor Eric Loucks, who conducted the study at Brown University, said: “Women with less education are more likely to be experiencing depression, they are more likely to be single parents, more likely to be living in impoverished areas and more likely to be living below the poverty line.”
Natasha Stewart, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “These findings support existing evidence about the link between socio-economic deprivation and heart disease risk.
“However, the study only showed up a small blood pressure drop among women and an insignificant decrease among men.
“Action is needed across all parts of society to give children the best possible start in life and reduce health inequalities.”

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cut the salt in half and elevate your blood pressure

Reducing salt intake by 3 grams (half a teaspoon) per day would save millions of lives worldwide.
Writing online in the British Medical Journal ahead of a UN conference, BPA supporter Professor Francesco Cappuccio said high blood pressure was the dominant cause of death and disability worldwide and highlighted the need for a global reduction in salt consumption.
With three-quarters of the salt we consume coming from processed food, Professor Cappuccio and his team from the University of Warwick also state the huge responsibility of food manufacturers to limit the amounts they put into their products.

Not only would a reduction in the average daily consumption save lives, it would also save the NHS millions in drug and surgical interventions.
He says,
“Evidence from a very wide variety of studies shows a consistent direct relation between salt intake and blood pressure.
“The blood pressure lowering effect of reducing salt intake is effective in men and women, in all ethnic groups, and all ages.”
The paper goes on to describe a four point plan to reduce salt intake that would need to involve:
  • Communication—establishing and evaluating public awareness campaigns
  • Reformulation—setting progressive salt targets for reformulating existing processed food and engaging with the food industry in setting standards for new foods
  • Monitoring—surveying population salt intake, progress of reformulation, and effectiveness of communication
  • Regulation—engagement with industry, including regulation, to create a level playing field so as not to disadvantage more enlightened and progressive companies
The current  health recommendation in the UK by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) is the consumption of no more than 6g of salt per day per person by 2012 and that this is cut to 3g per person per day by 2025.
A reduction of 3 g per day in salt intake would result in a blood pressure fall of at least 2.5/1.4 mm Hg. This would reduce strokes by about 12-14% and coronary heart disease by 9-10%, equivalent to approximately 6,500-8,000 deaths from stroke and 7,500-12, 000 deaths from coronary heart disease per year.
Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of both the BPA and campaign group Consensus Action on Salt and Health, welcomed the authors' 'clear and practical approach' to salt reduction and urged countries around the world to take action.
He revealed,
“The benefits from salt reduction are enormous; every 1g of salt removed from the UK diet is predicted to prevent 6,000 deaths and a further 6,000 non-fatal strokes and heart attacks.”