Dec 19, 2014 6:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

Your doctor probably has told you to cut back on salt because it contributes to high blood pressure. New research suggests you may want to watch sugar, too.

A recent article published by the British Cardiovascular Society in the online journal Open Heart encourages health providers and their patients to focus greater attention on sugar consumption, which it says may be “more meaningfully related to blood pressure than sodium.”

When our bodies are regularly overwhelmed with too much sugar, we can develop insulin resistance. Although insulin resistance is a hallmark of diabetes and prediabetes, it also affects our blood vessels, says Timothy Graham, MD, an endocrinologist and diabetologist at University of Utah Health.

“There is increasing recognition that sugars in the diet are an important cause of insulin resistance, and ultimately of diabetes, stroke and heart disease,” he says.

Americans eat a lot of sugar. According to the article, the average American consumes 24 to 47 teaspoons of added sugar a day, about two to eight times more than the American Heart Association recommends. With kids, it’s even more. Adolescents’ sugar consumption may be as much as six to 16 times higher than advised.

Cutting back on sugar, though, is not as easy as it seems. As with salt, most of the added sugar in our diets comes from processed foods. The article’s authors specifically point to fructose, which Americans consume in many processed foods and sweetened beverages, as a contributor to high blood pressure.

While reducing sugar consumption has important health benefits, Graham says we shouldn’t dismiss the impact of salt either.

“There are ample data, collected over more than a century of research, showing that sodium in the diet is a major cause of high blood pressure,” he says.

To keep your heart healthy, avoid indulging in too much of either kind of the white stuff.

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