Dietary efforts to control high blood pressure have historically focused on limiting sodium, but the added sugar in processed foods may be a more important contributor to hypertension than added salt, according to two researchers who study the impact of the foods we eat on cardiovascular risk.
In a research review published Dec. 11 in the BMJ journal Open Heart, James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD, of Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, Kansas City, Mo., and Sean C. Lucan, MD, MPH, of Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, New York argued that the emphasis on lowering dietary sodium in guidelines aimed at reducing hypertension is misguided and not evidence-based.
“Added sugars probably matter more than dietary sodium for hypertension, and fructose in particular may uniquely increase cardiovascular risk by inciting metabolic dysfunction and increasing blood pressure variability, myocardial oxygen demand, heart rate, and inflammation,” the authors wrote.
DiNicolantonio, who is an associate editor of Open Heart, was more blunt in an interview with MedPage Today, calling sodium restriction guidelines “the greatest con in preventive nutrition in human history.”
“The studies tell us that 3 to 4 grams of sodium (daily) is the level associated with the lowest risk for cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, so why do the guidelines all tell us to consume less than 2.4 grams (2,400 milligrams) of sodium a day,” he said.