Dietary guidelines to lower high blood pressure have historically focused on cutting salt intake but most salt in the diet comes from processed foods which also happen to be a rich source of added sugars, the researchers pointed out.

"Sugar may be much more meaningfully related to blood pressure than sodium as suggested by a greater magnitude of effect with dietary manipulation," the authors stated in an analysis of the published evidence in the online journal Open Heart.

Researchers from St Luke's Mid America Heart Institute and Montefiore Medical Centre in the US reviewed a selection of evidence from basic science experiments, animal studies and human research.

They found that the blame, in particular, goes to high fructose corn syrup which is the most frequently used sweetener in processed foods, particularly fruit-flavoured and fizzy drinks.

"Compelling evidence from basic science, population studies and clinical trials implicates sugars and particularly fructose, as playing a major role in the development of hypertension [high blood pressure]," the study emphasised.

The evidence suggests that people whose dietary intake of added sugars adds up to atleast a quarter of their total daily calories have almost triple the cardiovascular disease risk of those who consume less than 10 percent.

A daily intake of more than 74 gram of fructose is associated with a 30 percent greater risk of blood pressure above 140/90 mm Hg and a 77 percent increased risk of blood pressure above 160/100 mm Hg.

A high fructose diet has also been linked to an unfavourable blood fat profile, higher fasting blood insulin levels and a doubling in the risk of metabolic syndrome. Even moderate doses of added sugar for short durations may cause substantial harm, the authors warned.

Worldwide, sugar sweetened beverage consumption has been implicated in 1,80,000 deaths every year. Naturally-occurring sugars found in fruits and vegetables are not harmful to health, they concluded.

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