Excess sugar and salt triggers rapid-onset high blood pressure in lab animals

By Karin Lillis • Published: June 7th, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Consuming too much sugar and salt has led to rapid-onset high blood pressure in laboratory animals, a new study says. It’s a potentially cautionary finding that fructose — a sugar present in many sweetened beverages and processed foods — is linked to rising levels of diabetes, obesity and other health problems.

New research by scientists studying fructose’s effect in animals supports that link. Their findings were reported during the American Physiological Society’s recent annual conference. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 70 million American adults — 1 in 3 — has high blood pressure and only about half of them have it under control.

The research suggests that high levels of fructose can lead to fast-onset, salt-sensitive high blood pressure. In a study using rats, researchers gave the animals drinking water with 20 percent fructose to simulate excessive soft-drink consumption in humans. They compared them with rats that received plain water in addition to their food for two weeks.

During the second week of the study, the researchers added salt to the diets of the rats that had been consuming the 20 percent fructose solution. Fructose intake, similar to amounts consumed in the American diet, led to rapid-onset of salt-sensitive high blood pressure among normal rats, the researchers said. Fructose-linked high blood pressure also increased the risk of kidney damage, they noted.

The results have implications for the U.S. population in general and certain ethnic groups such as African-Americans, who have a high rate of incidence of salt-sensitive hypertension, in particular. While more studies are needed, researchers say, the findings raise concern about the amount of fructose and salt found in the American diet.