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Drinking Fewer Sugary Beverages May Lower Blood Pressure

Drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages—a leading source of added sugar in the U.S. diet—may lower blood pressure, according to research published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) has been associated with an elevated risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes, according to previous research. However, the effect of sugar-sweetened beverages on blood pressure is uncertain, said lead author Dr. Liwei Chen, assistant professor at Louisiana State University Health Science Center School of Public Health in New Orleans.

“Our findings suggest that reducing sugar-sweetened beverages and sugar consumption may be an important dietary strategy to lower blood pressure and further reduce other blood pressure-related diseases,” Chen said.

Researchers used data on 810 adults, ages 25 to 79, with prehypertension and stage I hypertension who participated in the PREMIER study, an 18-month behavioral intervention study with a focus on weight loss, exercise, and a healthy diet as a means to prevent and control high blood pressure. At the start of the study, the participants drank an average 10.5 fluid ounces of SSB/day, equivalent to just under one serving. At the study’s conclusion, average consumption had fallen by half a serving/day and both systolic blood pressure (the pressure when the heart beats), and diastolic blood pressure, (the pressure between beats), had declined significantly.

Chen noted that American adults consume an average of 2.3 servings (28 ounces) of sugar-sweetened beverages per day. In this study, sugar-sweetened beverages were defined as drinks sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup including regular soft drinks, fruit drinks, lemonade, and fruit punch.

Diet drinks were excluded from the study.

The study potentially has important public health implications, because even small reductions in blood pressure are projected to have substantial health benefits on a population level, according to Chen.

“Although this study was conducted among mostly overweight adults and many with hypertension, we believe that others will benefit by reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages,” Chen said.

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