Several metabolic syndromes have been studied in relation with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), including the correlation between Hypertension and High Fructose Corn Syrup. HFCS is an artificial sweetener added to countless foods and beverages, including soda and juice, fruit products, baked goods, cereals, and dairy products1. HFCS has steadily replaced table sugar (sucrose) in food products, with the main difference being the additional fructose contained in HFCS (as the name implies). HFCS is most frequently composed of 55% fructose and 45% glucose, though it can contain up to 90% fructose. Normal table sugar contains a 1:1 ratio of fructose and glucose. Between the years 1970–1990, HFCS consumption increased between 20-40%, exceeding growth in consumption of any other food product2. In the year 2000, corn syrups accounted for 42% of added sweeteners consumed3.
Amongst several other metabolic syndromes, HFCS has been implicated in the rise of hypertension in the United States over the last 3 decades. Studies on the effect of High Fructose Corn Syrup and hypertension have yielded varied results. For obvious reasons, studies have been epidemiological in nature. Three notable studies are presented here, beginning with a classification of whether the study showed ‘positive, neutral, or no’ correlation of HFCS to hypertension:
- Positive Correlation: one of the largest and most convincing studies showed an undeniable correlation to hypertension. In this study, 4528 participants were surveyed and each had a fructose consumption of ≥74 g/d (equivalent of 2.5 sugary soft drinks per day). The results showed that this level of fructose intake led to a 26, 30, and 77% higher risk for blood pressure cutoffs of ≥135/85, ≥140/90, and ≥160/100 mmHg, respectively4. Furthermore, the study suggested that high fructose intake caused elevated blood pressure in US adults with no previous history of hypertension.
- Neutral Correlation: In another epidemiological study of 6039 middle-aged adults, consumption of ≥1 soft drink per day showed 18% higher risk of hypertension, a statistic that only bordered the test of significance. However, the study did show a 25%-32% increased chance of obesity, waist circumference, and diabetes5.
- No Correlation: One study of three large cohorts of health professionals showed no effect of high fructose intake on hypertension. However, a weakness in the study was that all subjects were indeed health professionals, and as such, their diets did not mirror the general populations6. Specifically, 23.6% of the fructose intake in this study was derived from fruit, a statistic not reflective of the general population in the United States, where the majority of sugar intake is derived from added sweeteners7.
Animal studies have shown a convincing correlation between a high fructose diet and hypertension. Three studies are presented here:
- Positive Correlation: In a two-week study performed at Stanford University, rats fed a diet of 66% fructose as a percentage of total calories had a rise in blood pressure of 21 mmHg, from 124±2 to 145±2 mmHg. The control group, fed a normal diet, did not see a rise in hypertension incidence8.
- Positive Correlation: The effect of high fructose on hypertension in rats was confirmed in a later study that used 10% fructose in water, equivalent to a diet containing 48-57% fructose. Within one week, the rats showed a rapid rise in hypertension incidence9.
- Positive Correlation: Lastly, a study performed at the Mayo Clinic on male dogs showed a strong correlation between HFCS and hypertension. Dogs were fed 60% of their calories as fructose, compared to the control group that fed on dextrose instead. Within 28 days, fructose-feeding dogs had a 22 mmHg rise in blood pressure (from 100.4±1.6 to 122.6±2.3 mmHg). The control did not show an increase in hypertension10.
- Hanover LM, White JS. Manufacturing, composition, and applications of fructose. AM J Clin Nutr. 1993; 58:724S-32S.
- Havel PJ. Dietary Fructose: implications for dysregulation of energy homeostasis and lipid/carbohydrate metabolism. Nutr Rev. 2005;63(5):133-157.
- Putnam JJ, Allshouse JE. Food consumption, prices and expenditures, 1970-1997. US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service statistical bulletin no. 965, April. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. 1999.
- Jalal DI, Smits G, Johnson RJ, et al. Increased fructose associates with elevated blood pressure. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2010;21:1543-1549.
- Dhingra R, Sullivan L, Jacques PF, et al. Soft drink consumption and risk of developing cardiometabolic risk factors and the metabolic syndrome in middle-aged adults in the community. Circulation. 2007;116: 480-488.
- Forman JP, Choi H, Curhan GC. Fructose and vitamin C intake do not influence risk for developing hypertension. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2009;20:863-871.
- Bowman, SA: Family Economics and Nutrition Review, Washington DC, USDA, 2004
- Hwang IS, Ho H, Hoffman BB, et al. Fructose-induced insulin resistance and hypertension in rats. Hypertension. 1987;10(5):512-516.
- Dai S, McNeil JH. Fructose-induced hypertension in rats is concentration- and duration-dependent. J Pharmacol Toxicol Methods. 1995; 33(3):101-107.
- Martinez FJ, Rizza RA, Romero JC. High-fructose feeding elicits insulin resistance, hyperinsulinism, and hypertension in normal mongrel dogs. Hypertension. 1994; 23(4):456-463.