RBR Newsletter

Sugar Added to Foods and Drinks Causes High Blood Pressure

By Gabe Mirkin, M.D.

Twelve scientifically-dependable studies involving 409,707 participants showed that sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with increased risk for high blood pressure, a major risk factor for diabetes and heart attacks (The American Journal of Cardiology, February, 2014).

A review of many studies on how sugar-added foods affect blood pressure and heart attack risk show (British Medical Journal: Open Heart,  Dec. 11, 2014):

* Compared with people who consume less than 10% of their calories from added sugars, those who take in 10% to 25% of calories from sugar suffer a 30% higher risk for heart attacks.

* Taking more than one 12-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage per day is associated with at least a 6% increase in the risk for high blood pressure.

* A meta-analysis of clinical trials found that higher sugar intake was associated with increases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure of 6.9 and 5.6 mm Hg.

* The more sugared foods you eat, the higher your bad (LDL) cholesterol.

* Sugars occurring naturally in foods, such as fruit, do not appear to present a significant risk for high blood pressure or heart attacks

* Sugar-added food, but not fruit, is associated with increased risk for high blood pressure and heart attacks.

* Replacing sugar-added foods with fruit helps to reduce blood pressure.

How Sugar-Added Foods Can Cause High Blood Pressure

More than 80% of people who have high blood pressure also have insulin resistance, inability to respond normally to insulin. Therefore, eating and drinking sugar-added foods cause their blood sugar levels to rise, causing their insulin levels to rise, which constricts arteries to cause high blood pressure (British Medical Journal: Open Heart,  Dec. 11, 2014).  

The highest rises in blood sugar come from:

*drinks with sugar (including fruit juice), and sugar added to foods cause

*high blood sugar levels, that cause

*insulin resistance, that cause

*high insulin levels, that cause

*high blood pressure and

*high cholesterol



*heart attacks and strokes, and


What is high blood pressure?

You have high blood pressure if your systolic blood pressure is greater than 120 before you go to bed at night and just after you wake in the morning. That is when your blood pressure is at its lowest level. You may also have high blood pressure if your systolic pressure is greater than 140 after resting for 5 to 10 minutes during the day.

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

More than 90% of Americans will develop high blood pressure. Of these, more than 90% will have essential hypertension, which means that the doctor doesn’t have the foggiest idea what causes it. Doctors know that kidney damage and an overactive adrenal gland both cause high blood pressure, but these known causes occur so rarely that most doctors do not even order a renin level to look for kidney causes, or an aldosterone level to look for adrenal causes.

Does Salt Really Cause High Blood Pressure?

Most doctors feel that a high-salt diet is a major cause of high blood pressure. However, low-salt diets reduce systolic blood pressure by less than 5 mm Hg in most adults with hypertension, and the average reduction in diastolic blood pressure associated with a low-salt diet among adults with high blood pressure is 2.5 mm Hg (JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(4):516-524). In fact, low-salt diets are associated with increased risk for death for people who also have diabetes.

The people who are most likely to get high blood pressure from taking in too much salt are those whose cells are insulin-resistant. Their cells do not respond well to insulin (Hypertension, Jan 2013). They have a high rise in insulin when they take in too much salt (Am J Hypertens, 1998 (Apr);11(4 Pt 1):397-402). The extra salt causes high insulin levels which constrict arteries to raise blood pressure. For them, a high salt intake increases blood pressure, insulin, and blood sugar.

How Can I tell if I am Insulin-resistant?

People who are insulin-insensitive usually have what is called metabolic syndrome. You have metabolic syndrome if you have any three of the following:

• storing fat primarily in your belly

• having small hips

• being overweight

• having blood triglycerides (>150)

• having blood HDL cholesterol (<40)

• having a fatty liver

• having a fasting blood sugar >100 (HbA1c> 5.7)

• having high insulin levels

• having high blood pressure

Reprinted with permission from Dr. Gabe Mirkin’s Fitness and Health e-Zine. Gabe Mirkin, M.D., is a sports medicine doctor and fitness guru. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin has run more than 40 marathons and is now a serious tandem bike rider with his wife, Diana, often doing 30-60 miles in an outing. His website is


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