When it comes to blood pressure and maintaining healthy levels, there are many lifestyle changes you can make. The most popular advice is to limit your intake of salt.
Although minimizing salt is an effective means of controlling blood pressure, research suggests that if you want to control blood pressure quickly—as well as lose weight and improve cholesterol and liver function—the best thing to do is cut down on sugar. Although salt has long been singled out as a cause of unhealthy blood pressure, it turns out that sugar is even worse.
In a study published in the journal Obesity, researchers from University of California–San Francisco and Touro University California examined the effects of cutting back sugar as a means of improving chronic metabolic diseases in children, such as blood pressure and high cholesterol. There were 43 children involved in the study between the ages of nine and 18.
Over the course of nine days, the children consumed meals, snacks, and beverages with reduced sugar intake. It’s important to note that added sugar was eliminated, but the children were allowed to have fruit.
Their diets contained the same amount of fat, protein, and carbohydrates that they consumed before the study, but added sugar was replaced with cereal and bagels. Hot dogs, pizza, and chips were still allowed from local supermarkets.
Initial fasting blood levels, blood pressure, and glucose tolerance were all recorded prior to consuming a new meal. If the children in the study lost weight, they were given low-sugar food options to help maintain their weight. Overall, dietary sugar was reduced from 28 percent down to 10 percent. Fructose from carbohydrates went from 12 percent to four percent.
In a short amount of time, the diet proved to have positive health effects, and the researchers noted a drop in blood pressure, cholesterol, and improvements in liver function. Fasting blood glucose levels fell five points, while insulin levels dropped by a third.
Lead author Robert Lustig said: “This study definitively shows that sugar is metabolically harmful not because of its calories or its effects on weight; rather sugar is metabolically harmful because it’s sugar. [The study indicates] that sugar contributes to metabolic syndrome, and is the strongest evidence to date that the negative effects of sugar are not because of calories or obesity.”
Senior author of the paper Jean-Marc Schwarz added:”These findings support the idea that it is essential for parents to evaluate sugar intake and to be mindful of the health effects of what their children are consuming.
“When we took the sugar out, the kids started responding to their satiety [fullness] cues. They told us it felt like so much more food, even though they were consuming the same number of calories as before, just with significantly less sugar. Some said we were overwhelming them with food.”
Because the study size was small and completed with children, further research is still needed. The findings suggest that sugar, once again, is harmful to overall health, and we can all benefit from cutting back on added sugars whenever possible.
If you’ve been having difficulties maintaining healthy blood pressure, it may be time to examine your diet for hidden sugars that may be holding you back.