It looks as though medicine has been fingering the wrong guy when it comes to heart disease prevention and lowering blood pressure. For years we've been told that salt is the major villain, but it appears that sugars in processed foods-and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in particular-may be the real culprit.
Not only is the case against the salt/blood pressure theory unproven, it may have done some harm. In fact, we need to consume between 3 and 6 g of salt every day for optimum health, and amounts below that could be bad for our health, reckon researchers from St Luke's Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas.
Both salt and sugars are often found in most processed foods-but the sugars are the problem. HFCS is singled out by the researchers because it is the most frequently-used sweetener in processed foods, and especially fruit-flavoured and fizzy drinks. Sugar-sweetened drinks account for 180,000 deaths a year.
People who consume high levels of HFCS are three times more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease compared to those who keep levels below 10 per cent of their overall diet.
It's been estimated that average consumption of dietary sugars in the US is between 77 and 152 pounds a year, which is equivalent to 24 to 47 teaspoons of sugar a day.
(Source: Open Heart, 2014; 1(1): e000167)