Sweetened Drinks Tied to Hypertension Risk

(MedPage Today) — Consuming beverages flavored with either sugar or artificial sweeteners was associated with a higher risk of developing hypertension, researchers found.

In three large, prospective studies of healthcare professionals, drinking at least one sweetened beverage a day was associated with a 6 percent to 20 percent greater relative risk of receiving a hypertension diagnosis from a doctor, John Forman, MD, of Harvard Medical School, reported here at the American Society of Nephrology meeting.

He said that the reason for the relationship — which is not necessarily causal — remains unclear, although the modest increases in risk “should raise the suspicion that there could be some residual confounding going on.”

But, Forman noted, there are no known health benefits to either sugar-sweetened or diet beverages, and other studies have shown strong relationships between sugar-sweetened beverages and diabetes risk and weight gain.

So, in the absence of any benefits and the possible presence of harm, “my recommendation would be don’t drink them,” he said.

Although consumption of sweetened drinks had been associated with prevalent hypertension in cross-sectional studies — including the INTERMAP study — prospective data regarding the relationship with incident hypertension were scarce.

So Forman and his colleagues examined data from three large, prospective studies — the Nurses’ Health Study I (88,540 women), the Nurses’ Health Study II (97,991 women), and the Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study (37,360 men). The researchers included only those individuals who had normal blood pressure at baseline.

Through follow-up ranging from 16 to 26 years, the participants reported dietary habits every four years on food frequency questionnaires. Every two years, they reported whether they had received a hypertension diagnosis from a doctor.


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