Sweet tooth, sick heart

By Tamzyn Murphy, RD, MSc (Dist.)


Guard your heart this Valentine’s day. Say NO to SUGAR… Sugar may be sweet on the tooth but it’s no sweetheart. In fact it may be the most damaging thing to your heart that you can put in your mouth. 


High blood pressure puts stress on your heart by making it have to do much more work to push your blood around your body. Just a 2-mmHg reduction of systolic blood pressure could lower death from stroke by 10% and from ischemic heart disease (i.e. heart disease caused by blockages of blood) by 7% in people with normal blood pressure [1]. So protecting your heart means maintaining a healthy blood pressure.


Sugar in general and it’s most dangerous component, fructose specifically, appear to play a pivotal role in the development of obesity, which in turn raises blood pressure [1]. But sugar, especially in the form of liquid sugar or sugar-sweetened beverages, may raise blood pressure independently of increases in body weight. In other words, even if sugar doesn’t make you fat it can still raise your blood pressure, thereby putting undue strain on your heart. 


Did you know…

    • 1 or more sugar sweetened beverages per day makes you 22% more likely to have high blood pressure than nonconsumers (The Framingham study) [2,3]. 
    • > 4 sugar-sweetened beverages per day could increase your chances of having high blood pressure by 28-44%, compared with infrequent consumers (The Nurses’ Health Study I and II ) [2,3].
    • The fewer sugar-sweetened beverages you drink the lower your blood pressure [4].


How sugar’s fructose component raises blood pressure:

  1. It increases blood uric acid concentrations. Uric acid raises blood pressure [1,5,6] by reducing the production of a potent blood vessel-dilator, called nitric oxide [1].
  2. It raises fats in the blood thereby potentially raising blood pressure [3].
  3. It stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, thereby reducing urinary sodium (salt) excretion and increasing sodium (salt) absorption in the gut [1].


So a sweet heart, isn’t so sweet after all. Take stress off your heart this Valentine’s Day. Say NO to SUGAR.