It’s clear that we eat too much salt….and sugar…and the wrong fats….and food in general. Refined sugars (carbohydrates) in particular, have been linked to a variety of health issues including obesity and diabetes. Hypertension, on the other hand, has consistently been linked to excess salt consumption. So it comes as a bit of a surprise to see new research that links sugar to hypertension.
American scientists recently reviewed a study of 8670 French adults which seemed to find no link between hypertension and salt intake. The study's researchers postulate that instead, consistently high sugar levels cause your heart to beat faster and in turn, cause your blood pressure to rise. A research team, led by Dr. James DiNicolantonio, a heart disease specialist at St. Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, believes the French study is on to something. Sugar may indeed be a significant risk factor for high blood pressure. The research paper (The American Journal of Cardiology. 10/2014; 114(7):1126–1128.), states that “dietary sodium intake tracks with the consumption of sugar, but it is the sugar, not salt, that may be the actual causative factor for increased blood pressure.” So if you have to choose, cutting sugar consumption may be a better habit to embrace, if the target is lowering blood pressure. Of course, lowering sugar consumption will have other positive health benefits.
Dr. DiNiclantonio also suggests that if you restrict salt, you prod consumers to seek other pleasurable tastes, and the first ingredient they move on to will be sugar, in the form of processed foods. When consumers consistently choose high sugar foods, they increase their risk of developing obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Just how much sugar should the average adult consume daily? The goal should be five to eight teaspoons daily, which means you're consuming between 20 and 32 grams of added sugar. Take a moment to read the labels of some of the foods you're eating like breads, sauces, nutrition bars, cereals…..need I go on? Even the foods you consider “healthy or natural” can have a hefty dose of added refined sugars. Most Americans are eating in excess of 15 teaspoons of sugar daily.
Experts are split on this new research. While some researchers and experts in the field of health feel that sugar has indeed been underestimated in its negative impact on health, other experts feel that the conclusions of the French study are weak, and that numerous prior studies have identified the role of salt in high blood pressure.
What do I think? It is time to reduce certain ingredients in our daily menus. A new study suggests that if we repeatedly expose ourselves to “low salt foods” we will get used to them. So I say, get started. Use fresh and dried herbs, sautéed vegetables, vinegars, lemon and lime juice, and other salt-free condiments to enhance flavors and cut usage of salt. We also need to limit sugar, and that means reading labels, buying foods like fruits, vegetables, and processed foods that don’t have added sugars – like plain Greek yogurt instead of low calorie sweetened or fruit-added yogurt. Check the sugar levels in the nutrition label and aim for 6 or 8 grams per serving. Keep a tally of the total grams of sugar you eat daily with the goal of getting closer to a maximum of 32 grams of added sugars per day.
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Published On: October 07, 2014