Soft drinks don't raise blood pressure

A new study in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension reports that consumption of one sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) per day increased the systolic/diastolic blood pressure among study subjects (N=2,696) on average by +1.1 mm Hg/+0.4 mm Hg. The researchers conclude that SSBs are directly associated with blood pressure. We conclude that this study is meaningless.

Even accepting the study results at face value, they are of no clinical significance. The average BP in the one-SSB-per-day-group was 119.5/74.0 — under the ideal BP of 120/80. In the more-than-one-SSB-per-day group, mean BP was 122.5/75.5 — again, perfectly normal. Moreover, the study did not link SSB consumption with any clinical health effects.

You’ve heard of Coke Zero; this study is Hypertension Zero.

10 thoughts on “Soft drinks don't raise blood pressure”

  1. Addendum: As for the study, it is a dietary recall-based study (usually considered unreliable) but includes actual multiple BP readings and multiple urine samples.

    The recommendations are not actually supported by the findings, but are simply a continuation of longstanding recommendations (you may read ‘medical superstitions’) about sugar and salt pushed for years by the AHA.

  2. Such tiny increases in blood pressure have absolutely no bearing on negative cardio events. To imply so is medically irresponsible. 20 people with a 1.1 mm increase in blood pressure is not the same as 1 person with a 22 mm increase, although grade-school math may make it look so.

    Blood pressure tends to increase much more than that when the subject, for instance, is asked to think about someone he/she is really mad at, or the subject watches an exciting action movie on TV.

  3. I’d agree that blood sodium is not a risk factor. In this study, they would have measured urinary sodium, which is a measure of salt intake. A number of studies have shown that populations, who move to regions of high salt intake, develop hypertension. Possibly due to effects on the kidneys.

  4. I spent a large part of my adult life working in the Mojave Desert. It was frequently the case when I came home at night my hair was full of salt. So I guess I am unusual.

    Nevertheless blood salt content may or may not indicate a possible cardiac problem. Perhaps Black people like more salt. Or overweight persons like saltier foods. Correlation does not prove causation. A provable nexus has to exist.

  5. I’m sure you’d agree that you are not typical. I mentioned salt intake because that is a major factor identified in the abstract. The effect of salt intake is variable and usually depends on body weight. Blood pressure does vary during the day and normal patients show a typical pattern where BP is lowest during the night. In the clinic we would use automated systems to measure BP and take the average of three measurements after the reading had stabilised.

  6. I sometimes have higher than average blood pressure. I take medication for it when needed. I take my blood pressure frequently. If my weight goes up my blood pressure goes up. No surprise here, it takes more pumping action from the heart to push more blood through more blood vessels.

    My blood pressure changes a lot from first thing in the morning to an afternoon when I have been working.

    It can change from simply standing up.

    An increase of 1.1 Hg from drinking a soda? No surprise here. Eating anything requires a metabolic response and sugar serves up the required energy. Of course metabolism and blood sugar go up. And no health threat either.

    By the way Graham Jackman,

    Salt may or may not be important “salt intake is a major factor here.” Not necessarily. I have always liked salty foods, yet blood tests show I am barely at the lowest range of normal for salt in my blood. My doctor said that is probably why I crave salt. My body simply rejects it and passes it out.

    So total intake may be meaningless for some.

  7. Thanks for that. Unfortunately, te abstract doesn’t indicate how long each subject was followed, so we can’t assess the rate of change. It does confirm that as expected caloric intake and overweight are associated with cardiovascular risk and that salt intake is a major factor here. But it does seem a lot of effort to confirm, what we already suspected/knew. I don’t see it making a radical change to guidelines, but then not all research is dramatic.

  8. I’ve looked at the contents of the last few editions of Hypertension and can’t find this article. Would you mind giving the complete reference, please?

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