You know that drinking too many sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), such as teas and flavored drinks, is bad for your waistline. Research shows that it may be bad for something else, too—your blood pressure. A study of nearly 3,000 people published in the journal Hypertension reported that those who drank more than one serving a day of SSBs had significantly higher blood pressure than participants who drank one serving (about 12 ounces) or less daily.

As a researcher, I look to see that other studies have confirmed a study’s results before drawing a conclusion and giving advice. The most convincing support comes from a 2010 study in Circulation. In that study, when 810 people with high blood pressure or even slightly elevated blood pressure (pre-hypertension) reduced their intake of SSBs over 18 months, they lowered their blood pressure.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, so as far as I’m concerned this is one more nail in the coffin against SSBs. After all, we already know that SSBs are the top source of calories in Americans’ diets and are void of any essential nutrients.

The American Heart Association recommends a heart healthy diet should contain no more than 450 calories (36 ounces) a week of SSBs.  Fortunately, our government is also getting the message. The USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines tell Americans to “drink water instead of sugary drinks.”  It doesn’t get much clearer than that. The calories you’ll save will undoubtedly help you reach, or maintain, a healthy weight—and may be good for your blood pressure too.


Rachel K. Johnson, PhD, RD, FAHA

Bickford Professor of Nutrition and Professor of Medicine, University of Vermont

Chair, Nutrition Committee, American Heart Association


EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog was also featured in EatingWell. To join the 3-Week Sodium Swap Challenge, please go to



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