Biggest killer – Sugar or salt?

Which plays a greater role in the development of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease – sugar or salt?

The authors of a published article in the online journal ‘Open Heart’ say that added sugars in processed foods are likely to have a greater role in the development of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke than added salt.

Added sugars go by the names of agave syrup, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, sugar molecules ending in ‘ose’, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, honey, invert sugar, molasses, raw sugar, and syrup. They are added to foods and drinks during the processing or preparation.

In the fight to curb the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, dietary guidelines should emphasise the role played by added sugars, insist the authors of this paper. Historically, cutting salt intake has been the focus of dietary approaches to lower blood pressure, but the potential benefits of this approach are ‘debatable’, they say. The average reduction in blood pressure achieved by reducing salt intake tends to be relatively small, whereas effects seen with sugar reduction are of greater magnitude.

They also state that there is compelling evidence from population studies and clinical trials to implicate sugar, particularly fructose, in the contribution to overall cardiovascular risk.

The paper emphasises that naturally occurring sugars in fruit and vegetables are not harmful to health, and that reducing consumption of added sugars by limiting processed foods containing it would be helpful.

They conclude that “the evidence is clear that even moderate doses of added sugar for short durations may cause substantial harm.”

Although there are no specifics in this paper review it nevertheless adds weight to the current consensus that sugar is detrimental to overall health. For more information on sugar and how it is damaging to our health I recommend a book by Professor John Yudkin called ‘Pure, white and deadly’. Yudkin first proved that sugar is bad for our health in 1972, but was dismissed by the food industry and most of the medical profession. Now there is growing support for the view that sugar is a killer.