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High-Fructose Diet Raises Blood Pressure In Middle Age Men

News - Diet Articles

Sept. 23 (Bloomberg) -- A diet high in foods with large amounts of fructose sugar such as sweetened soft drinks increased blood pressure in men, according to a study presented today that also found that a drug for gout blocked the effect.

Men in the study who ate a high-fructose diet had their blood pressure rise about 5 percent after two weeks, while those who also were given a gout treatment increased less than 1 percent, study author Richard Johnson said. Eating great amounts of fructose without the treatment also raised the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors associated with the development of heart disease and diabetes.

The study is one of the first to show that consuming foods high in fructose raises blood pressure in people, Johnson said. The gout treatment lowered the body’s uric acid that is linked at elevated levels to high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

“Reduce your sugar intake,” Johnson, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado, Denver in Aurora, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “This data would suggest that too much sugar and high fructose corn syrup may not be a good thing.”

Johnson said larger trials were needed to confirm the findings, particularly before treating people with any drugs including the gout medicine, allopurinol.

‘Exciting Data’

“We’re not ready to lower uric acid as a means to lower blood pressure,” said Johnson, who worked with Santos Perez- Pozo, a kidney specialist and lead author of the research in Minorca, Spain. “It is exciting data that suggests uric acid may have a role in hypertension.”

The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, will be presented today at the American Heart Association’s annual conference on high blood pressure in Chicago.

Fructose is one of several sugars in food and makes up about half of all the sugar molecules in table sugar and in high-fructose corn syrup, according to background information from the American Heart Association. The syrup often is used as a sweetener in packaged food products. Fructose is the only common sugar known to increase uric acid levels, the heart association said.

The study examined 74 adult men in Spain with an average age of 51. The men were given 200 grams (7.05 ounces) a day of fructose in addition to their regular diet. In the U.S., most adults consume about 50 grams to 70 grams of fructose a day.

Blood Pressure

Half of the men in the study were assigned to receive the generic gout drug allopurinol, while the other half were given a placebo. After two weeks, those in the fructose-placebo group had an increase of 6 mm Hg in their systolic blood pressure and a 3-mm Hg rise in their diastolic blood pressure, the researchers found. Systolic refers to the top number in the blood-pressure ratio and shows the pressure when the heart beats, while diastolic is the lower number that measures the pressure between the heart beats.

The men with elevated blood pressure saw their levels return to normal within two months of the study’s end when they went back to their usual diets, the researchers said.

Those getting the high-fructose diet who also were given allopurinol didn’t show significant increases in their systolic or diastolic blood pressures, the study showed.

Metabolic Syndrome

The incidence of metabolic syndrome as defined in the U.S. more than doubled to 44 percent of the group getting the high- fructose intake without allopurinol. The syndrome is defined as having at least three of five risk factors including increased waist circumference, high blood pressure and high fasting-blood sugar. Those in the group receiving allopurinol didn’t experience a rise in metabolic syndrome incidence, possibly because the gout drug stopped their blood pressure from rising, the authors said.

Most sugar consumption in the U.S. comes from sweetened drinks and foods high in sugar or high fructose corn syrup, Johnson said.

The research results suggest it’s possible that lowering uric acid levels could become a routine practice in the future, much like lowering cholesterol.

“This could become a risk factor that is modifiable and that lowering it could be of considerable benefit,” Johnson said. “However we still need more studies to prove it.”


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