Monday, March 9, 2015

Sugar Is a Prominent Contributor to Hypertension


          For years, physicians and nurses have placed those with higher than average blood pressure determinations on salt restricted diets.  This practice has persisted despite the fact that a reliable medical study by DiNicolantonio and Lucan indicated that a salt restricted diet reduces blood pressure by only 5 mmHg. There is also some indication that some subgroups of patients, (those with heart failure, and diabetes) may actually be more likely to be hospitalized when their salt is restricted. For a few patients, salt restrictions can be catastrophic.

              I first began to receive some personal evidence of this when I was expecting my third child and  I experienced some carpal tunnel syndrome.  The obstetrician explained that particularly during pregnancy, salt would cause fluid retention and could cause pressure along wrist nerves, particularly in those of us with small wrists.  I was told to restrict my salt.  I did and it made absolutely no difference to the numbness and pain in my hands. The carpal tunnel syndrome did abate however, when I severely restricted my intake of sugars, which I did independently of my physician.The carpal tunnel symptoms departed, and they never returned, even during a fourth full term pregnancy, or afterward.

           DiNicolantonio and Lucan also concluded that perhaps rather than restricting the salt intake of hypertensive patients so severely, that we should look to their sugar intake as a causation or contributor to hypertention.  We know that hypertension is a major risk factor in everything from stroke, to myocardial infarction (heart attack), kidney disease, ruptured aneurysm, and even atrial fibrillation, for some patients.   Physicians have been focused on the "salt causes hypertension" for so long that they have not fully considered the role of sugars, and they have certainly not brought this knowledge to the doorstep of the American public.

            In the US, sugars are added to everything from drinks to bread.  Baked beans are covered in brown sugar while sweet potatoes are baked with marshmallows. The average salad uses a dressing with 200-300 calories worth of often a sugared dressing. Sugar is added to tomato sauce for spaghetti. Meatballs may be marinaded in thick syrups.  Meats are glazed or painted with a sugar enriched sauce.  Many teens drink multiple sugared sodas daily.   The problem isn't the occasional dessert, piece of birthday cake, candy bar, or cookie.  The problem is that in order to sell whatever it is, it is enriched with high fructose corn syrup or covered with icing sugar !    Americans are so accustomed to the taste of sugar that food doesn't taste quite right unless it is adulterated with it !

          Also according to the study, three hundred years ago human beings ingested naturally occurring sugars. Their annual intake per year was two to three pounds of sugar per year.  When studied, the average American ingests 77-152 pounds of sugar per year.   This means that some of them are getting 25% of their daily calories from pure sugar.

             We know that high dietary sugar causes fluid retention.  We know that it is a contributor to hypertension.  We know that high sugar intake is implicated in dyslipidemia.   (Discontinue someones sugared sodas and watch their triglycerides plummet !)   We also know that sugar increases the myocardial need for oxygen.  We also know that sugar increases inflammation.     As an endocrinologist once told me, 

 "Sucrose is rocket fuel for human beings."   In the long term it is poisonous to human beings.  It just kills diabetics sooner !

           As I have said many times, one size fits all is not a way to practice public health.  If your salt is restricted and your hypertension has diminished, then you should not make changes.  If you are taking anti-hypertensives and they are working, then don't abruptly discontinue a drug which is preventing a stroke.  However, if you are beginning to lose the battle with hypertension, and you are finding that you need more and more drugs in order to keep your blood pressure in just above the normal range, then download the study I mentioned in the first paragraph, make an appointment with your doctor, and get him to refer you to a dietician who can help you craft a diet with less sucrose. I can promise you that with less sucrose in the machine, that you will indeed feel better and that you will function better.

           I can also promise you that when you leave out a lot of the sugar that used to be in your diet that relatives won't want to spend Thanksgiving at your house.  You may well also notice an improvement in both your systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings.

           If you are a serious prepper or survivalist then perhaps, rather than stocking all that sugar and those drugs for hypertension, you should stock more fruits and vegetables and less sugar.