People can significantly lower their BP by reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), according to a recent study.

The research, published in Circulation (2010;121:2398-2406), focused on 810 adults with average systolic/diastolic BPs of approximately 134.9/84.8 mm Hg at baseline. At the start of the study they drank an average of approximately 0.9 servings (about 10.5 oz) per day of nondiet SSBs, (e.g., soft drinks, fruit drinks, lemonade, and fruit punch).

Reducing SSB intake by one serving per day was associated with a 1.8 mm Hg drop in systolic BP and a 1.1 mm Hg decrease in diastolic BP over 18 months, even after the investigators adjusted for weight change over the same period. Neither diet-drink consumption nor caffeine intake had any significant bearing on BP, suggesting that sugar may in fact be the nutrient associated with BP.

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In the United States, the rate of hypertension has not fallen in recent years, based on information gleaned from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and reported recently in JAMA (2010;303:2043-2050). However, about 50% of people with hypertension had adequate control of their BP in the NHANES 2007-2008 period, with most of the improvement since 1988 occurring after 1999-2000.