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Soft Drinks and Hypertension: Artificial Sweeteners and Fructose May Have the Same Effect
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) gets a bad rap, and rightly so. It’s used to sweeten most carbonated sodas, fruit drinks, cookies, even bread and other baked goods. Because these foods are so plentiful, relatively inexpensive, and have such long shelf lives, our national consumption of HFCS has skyrocketed. At the same time, obesity levels are surging, and high blood pressure is more common than ever, affecting one in three American adults.
Scientists are still working out exactly how HFCS is contributing to our national health crisis. Dr. Lisa Cohen and colleagues recently published their findings in the Journal of General Internal Medicine evaluating the connections between sugar-sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and hypertension. They looked at dietary data from over 200,000 adult men and women who were followed by medical researchers for anywhere from 16 to 38 years, and evaluated the incidence of hypertension (high blood pressure).
Although we might have expected that the sugary sodas would be more closely linked to hypertension, it turned out that the artificially sweetened soda was equally associated with blood pressure. In fact, after correcting for any differences in body weight, other dietary factors, and medical conditions, the risk of hypertension was 13 to 14 percent higher amongst all soda drinkers who consumed at least one beverage daily compared to those who rarely touched the stuff. Although it was not clear exactly why both types of sodas had the same effect, carbonated drinks and cola seemed to be more strongly related to the risk for high blood pressure, but caffeine did not.
This study strikes yet another blow for artificially sweetened drinks. Several months ago, I wrote about another study connecting the sodas to weight gain. Faking your taste buds out might seem like a logical idea, but hydrating naturally makes much more sense. Water is what your body craves. It’s nature’s perfect elixir, it’s nearly free, and it has no calories at all.