Sugar and Blood Pressure

Too much of salt and too much of sugar, both are responsible for rise in blood pressure. Most adults and mainly children are fond of sweet products like cakes, biscuits, sweets and drinking sugar sweetened beverages. This processed food products adds maximum amount sugar into body. For example- 8 ounces of soft drink consist of 7 teaspoons of sugar Almost around 130 pounds of sugar are consumed by adults in a year i.e. around 6 glass ounce of sugar each day.  American adults consume 2.3 servings of sugar sweetened drinks (SSD) like Soft drinks, fruit drinks, fruit punch, and lemonade per day.   Researches have shown that people who consume more than 1 drink of SSD per day have extra 400 calories than people who doesn’t drinks.

Sugars are present in variety of forms in food product such as mannose, sucrose, glucose, fructose etc. Sugars can be differentiated into two types- simple and complex carbohydrates. Glucose and fructose are form of simple sugars whereas starch is an example of complex carbohydrate. Fruits mainly consist of fructose.

High Sugar Level and Blood Pressure

Sugar and blood pressure are closely related.  Sugar is a prerequisite need for our body. Brain requires glucose for proper functioning. If we consume sugar alone, not in form of complex food like vegetables and fruits, it gets directly absorbed into blood and elevates blood sugar. In case of Candies, SSD and other sugary products elevation of blood pressure are due to increase in production of insulin, which leads to sodium retention which causes blood pressure elevation.

More sugar and sodium level in body, blood pressure reading spikes upwards. Increased intake of SSD increases risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.  This ultimately increases chances of heart attack, strokes and other cardiovascular disorder. When blood sugar level rises, such condition is known as Hyperglycaemia. It can be identified by symptoms like frequents urination, drowsiness, nausea, more of hunger and thirst and blurred vision.  Sugary foods and drinks can also cause tooth decay, especially when it is consumed in between the meals. However chances of tooth decay are less if we eat whole fruit because in them sugar are present in condensed form. But when fruits are juiced or blended. Sugars are released and chances of tooth decay increases if juices are consumed frequently.  But fruit are still considered as a healthy preparation and it is recommended to drink fruit juice during mealtimes.

Mechanism of rise in blood pressure is not yet properly understood, but some researches have shown that high amount of sugar in body increases level of uric acid, waste product which causes blood vessels to contract or act on kidney to increase to blood pressure level. It also impairs a production of vasodialating agent known as nitric acid. High sugar level also stimulates sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for flight and fight response. All such factors contribute to increase in blood pressure. Thus not only salt raises blood pressure but sugar and blood pressure are also related.

However, if we focus more on fruits, vegetables and cereals, it’s possible to maintain blood sugar level because breakdown of sugar occurs slowly which makes absorption of sugar in blood stream to proceed gradually and finally Insulin production reduces by decrease in sugar and blood pressure remains normal.

Reduction of daily sugar intake even into modest amount can help in reducing blood pressure significantly. 12 ounce reduction in daily servings decreases 1.8 point drop in systolic blood pressure and 1.1 point drop in diastolic blood pressure. 3 point drop in systolic blood pressure causes 8 % reduction in strokes and 5% drop in heart attack.

How to measure Blood Sugar level

Three tests are performed to determine blood glucose level in body.

Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) – It is a simple blood test which is performed after eight hours of fasting. FPG level is normal up to blood sugar tests100mg/dl or 2.6mmol/L. Reading between 110-125mg/dl or 6.1-6.9mmol/L indicates impaired glucose or risk factor for type 2 diabetes. If FPG level rises above 126mg/dl, diabetes is confirmed.

Glucose tolerance test– The test is conducted after conducting FPG test. Thereafter patient is advised to drink a special glucose solution and blood test is performed after 2 hours. If the person is not suffering from diabetes, blood sugar increases slightly after drinking glucose solution but decreases after two hours but in patient with diabetes initial blood sugar level rises too high and might reach up to 200 mg/dl. Reading between 140-200mg/dl indicates risk of diabetes development.

Glycosylated Haemoglobin– This test is performed to determine level of glycosylated haemoglobin. Also called as HbA1c, in blood. Normal HbA1c level should be below 7%. The prevalence of diabetes is confirmed if value rises above 8%.

Dietary control of Blood Sugar

Healthy diet habits can tackle any diseases including diabetes and hypertension. But along with good dietary practice it is equally essential to quit sedentary lifestyle and focusing more physical activity. Diet should be balanced and should be within permissible calories limits.

In a controlled diet, total calories should come from 55-65% carbohydrates, 15-20% from proteins and remaining 15-20% from fats.
An at least 2-4 serving of fruit is recommended per day. We all say that fruits are best for health. It’s true but some fruits have high sugar content. So precaution should also be taken while eating fruits.  It’s better to eat fruits with low sugar content because it is rich in other nutrients like antioxidants and phytonutrients. 

  • Fruits with less sugar content- it includes lemon, rhubarb, raspberries and blackberries.
  • Fruits having medium sugar levels- peaches, apples, strawberry, guavas, apricots and grapes, watermelon.
  • Fruits with high sugar level- Plums, oranges, mangoes, figs, cherries, pears, pineapples and bananas. Dried fruits like dates, raisins, apricots and prunes also have high sugar content.

Diet Plan with low sugar content food

Adequate diet is one which includes more servings of vegetables, cereals and fruits. Give more emphasis to foods rich in complex carbohydrates and fibres.

Our main aim should be to decrease intake of processed sugar products. Some suggestion regarding things to be eaten in a day is given below which helps in maintaining both sugar and blood pressure.

  • During breakfast– Cereals like oatmeal, raisin bran or shredded wheat are best option. Avoid ready to eat meals. However cereals with milk and fruits are considered more healthy option. If you need egg or bacon in breakfast, you can eat eggs but avoid bacon.
  • During lunch– lunch should be light and focus more on vegetables, fruits and grains. Salads should have low sodium dressings.
  • During dinner– dinner can include vegetables or fish as an supplement of protein and carbohydrates. Have fruits for desserts.

Substances that help in lowering blood sugar level

Fibres, a complex carbohydrate, plays very important role in regulating sugar and blood pressure levels. Consuming around 30 g of fibre can reduce blood pressure to significant extent. Fibres are indigestible; it doesn’t get absorbed into blood streams. Fibres regulate blood pressure by binding with simple sugars. This causes slow release of sugar as food moves through intestinal tract. It also lowers insulin output by pancreas after a meal that is high in sugar.  A high fibre food includes barley, brown rice, beans, almonds, lentils and raspberries.

Natural diuretics play an important role in maintaining blood pressure by facilitating excretion of excess sodium.  Water melon is a natural diuretic; it consists of citrulline, component of rind, which regulates BP by improving blood flow through arteries. Other natural diuretics include dandelion, asparagus, cabbage, tomatoes and beets.

Precautions while purchasing food products

Always check for carbohydrate content in label:

  • High: consist of 15g of total sugar per 100g.
  • Low: consist of 5g or less of total per 100g.
  • Medium: 5-15g of total sugar per 100 g.

Some food packages have particular coloured signs to indicate level of sugar in it:

  • Red means high sugar content
  • Amber means medium sugar content
  • Green means low sugar content.

It is advised that milk and its products should not be used more than 400ml/day. Use skimmed milks whenever possible. Avoid eating fried fish. Shell fishes like lobster and prawns should be avoided. Use whole grain cereals rather than sugar coated cereals.