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Nutrition Monday: Salt or Sugar?

by Val Kirk, YWCA Fitness on 25th Personal Trainer

Salt Or Sugar?

Which plays a greater role in high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease?  SUGAR OR SALT?

If your answer was “salt”, you are wrong, says authors of a published study in the only journal “Open Heart”.  Added sugars, particularly fructose, in processed foods are likely to have a greater role in high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke than added salt.

Both the American and Canadian Heart Association defines added sugars as “sugar and syrups that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation” and say that “names for added sugars include ogave syrup, brown sugar, corn sweeteners, corn syrup, sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose) high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, honey, inverted sugar, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, sugar and syrup.

The average person, according to the Canadian and American Heart Association, consumes 24 – 47 teaspoons of added sugar per day.  This is well above the AHA recommended daily intake of only 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons for men per day.  In order to prevent cardiovascular disease, dietary guidelines should emphasize the role played by added sugars, say the authors in their paper “The Wrong White Crystals; Not Salt but Sugar as Aetiological in Hypertension and Cardio-Metabolic Disease”. Historically “salt” was the one that should be reduced to lowering high blood pressure.  But the potential benefits of this approach is debatable.  This is because the average reduction in blood pressure achieved by restricting salt intake tends to be relatively small, and there is some evidence to suggest that 3 – 6 grams of salt daily may be optimal for health, and that intake below 3 grams may actually be harmful.

Most salt in the diet comes from processed foods, which also happens to be a rich source of added sugars.  Sugar may be more relative to blood pressure than sodium, as suggested by a greater magnitude of effect with dietary manipulation.  Compelling evidence from basic science and popular studies with clinical trials all implicate sugar, particularly the monosaccharide fructose as the major player in developing hypertension or high blood pressure.  Studies also suggest that fructose may contribute to overall cardiovascular risk through a variety of mechanism.

In one study it was noted that naturally occurring sugars found in fruit and veggies are more harmful to health. Just as most dietary sodium does not come from the salt shaker, most dietary sugar does not come from the sugar bowl.  By reducing the consumption of added sugars by limiting processed foods containing it would be a good place to start.  The evidence is clear that even moderate doses of added sugar for short duration may cause substantial harm. If you would like more information on any of the sources used for this article, please contact us at the YWCA Fitness on 25th.

What’s right for you?