Commentary Examines New Study’s Findings on Relationship Between Fructose and Hypertension

January 27, 2015

Is fructose by itself the sole issue in hypertension?

CLEARWATER, FL—As dietary sweeteners are found in a wide range of food products, researchers continue to examine and debate the role of fructose, thought to be the most detrimental of the category, and its relationship to hypertension. A newly published study has examined the association between the two and is published in the current edition of the Journal of Clinical Hypertension (JCH).  A commentary about the study and its findings, “Fructose Containing Sugars do not Raise Blood Pressure or Uric Acid at Normal Levels of Human Consumption” is included as a companion article at http://bit.ly/1uy1te7.

The authors of the commentary are Mark Houston, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Vanaderbilt University School of Medicine and Director, Hypertension Institute and Division of Human Nutrition at Saint Thomas Hospital, in Nashville, Tennessee, and Deanna Minich, PhD, FACN, CNS, Adjunct Faculty, University of Western States, and Faculty, Institute for Functional Medicine. Dr. Minich is also a member of the Board of the American College of Nutrition.

Study Overview
The study examined 268 weight-stable individuals with normal hypertension whose blood pressure and uric acid measurements were followed before and after 10 weeks of consuming one of four sugar-sweetened milk beverages, each containing a single sweetener (high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, glucose, and sucrose) at a particular percentage of calories for weight maintenance. The researchers found that at the conclusion of the study, the volunteer subjects had a significant reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure with no change in uric acid levels despite an average two pound weight gain. It was noted that blood pressure was not measured using 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring. 

Commentary
Are the study results entirely unexpected? The commentary discusses the following elements that may have impacted on the study and its results:

  • The use of milk as the beverage provided to the study participants. Milk contains a large number of other nutrients that could favorably alter blood pressure, such as specific protein peptides, potassium, calcium, and vitamin D.  
  • The total calories consumed by study participants. With test subjects consuming the amount of sugar-sweetened milk at the level of weight maintenance, the commentary authors suggest that different results for fructose (or any sweetener) may be obtained when consuming amounts that exceed the normal average as calorie excess.  
  • The need for an examination of the dietary pattern and lifestyle of the participants. A fuller examination of their complex food patterns, including intake of fruits, vegetables, and high-fiber whole grains, may have counteracted any potential effect of fructose on blood pressure.
  • The nature of hypertension, characterized by inflammation, oxidative stress and immune dysfunction, can be induced by a number of different causes to include poor diet, lack of physical activity, obesity, and heightened stress. The multi-factorial effect of lifestyle on chronic conditions like hypertension calls into question the role that that a single food substance, like fructose, could have on the disease.  

Is Fructose Itself the Sole Issue in Hypertension?
The authors recommend that future studies examine whether qualitatively different fructose-containing foods, such as sugar-sweetened beverages versus fruit, provoke different responses, suggesting that “fructose by itself may not be the sole issue in hypertension.” In addition, they propose that there may be another way to better understand the issue: by examining whether fructose-containing food is nutrient dense, how much of it is eaten, for how long of a duration, and in what dietary pattern context.  

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About the American College of Nutrition
The American College of Nutrition (ACN), founded in 1959, is on a mission to advance nutrition science to prevent and treat disease. Key goals of the professional society are to stimulate nutrition research and publication, elevate nutrition knowledge among clinicians and researchers, and provide practical guidance on clinical nutrition. The American College of Nutrition accepts no funding from for-profit corporations. This policy fosters its mission and ability to advance uncompromising science.  

NOTE TO EDITORS: The commentary is online at http://bit.ly/1uy1te7; the study appears at http://bit.ly/1yrTqQb.  A Statement by ACN is available at http://bit.ly/1zXEMHd. To schedule an interview with an author of the commentary please contact the American College of Nutrition’s Media Relations Department at Media@AmericanCollegeofNutrition.org.

Keywords:  fructose, dietary sweeteners, hypertension, nutrition, public health, American College of Nutrition