High-fructose corn syrup is everywhere! It’s in the sugary-sweet soft drinks, “fruit” juices, syrups and many of the candies that we so love to eat. What could be so bad about these tasty treats? A new study by the University of Colorado Denver Health Services suggests that there could be a direct link to hypertension or high blood pressure.

According to the study, just as little as two and a half sodas a day (or 74 grams of fructose) increases the risk of hypertension to a 28%, 36%, and 87% higher risk for blood pressure levels of 135/85, 140/90, and 160/100 mmHg, respectively. These studies suggest that lowering the amount of high-fructose corn syrup intake can have a significant impact on lowering blood pressure levels. Keeping your blood pressure low isn’t just great for your heart. Did you know that hypertension is a major cause of erectile dysfunction? If you’re a man, you’ll want to pay extra special attention to keeping your blood pressure low.

So, what is high-fructose corn syrup? High-fructose corn syrup is a sweetener and also a preservative. It is created by changing the sugar (glucose) in cornstarch to fructose – another form of sugar. The end product is a combination of glucose and fructose. This new type of sugar is used because it enhances the shelf life of food by acting as a preservative. High-fructose corn syrup began being used prominently in foods as sugar prices rose in the ‘60s. This corn-based product was cheaper to make so it began to appear prevalently in the American diet. High-fructose corn syrup is blamed by many for the rising obesity rates in the U.S. – with some critics pointing out that it made sweet foods cheaper and more readily available while other critics believe it is a direct cause of the obesity crisis. And, as we all know, obesity leads to high blood pressure or hypertension.

The easiest way to reduce the amount of high-fructose corn syrup in your diet is to simply read the label. But, chances are, if you’re eating something sweet – it’s in there. High-fructose corn syrup appears in many, many soft drinks, even those labeled and sold as “natural.” Soft drinks, sports drinks, lemonade, iced tea and almost every sweet drink you can think of contains high-fructose corn syrup. You will also find high-fructose corn syrup in many cereals, baking mixes, baked goods, breads, pastries, cookies, canned fruits, ice cream, salad dressings, and the list goes on…

Reducing the affects of hypertension, in addition to getting proper medical care and taking the appropriate medications, is all about changing your lifestyle. The tried-and-true method of eating right and getting good exercise is always the best policy when dealing with diet-related illness. Everyone loves to indulge their sweet tooth, but a little bit goes a long way, and having just a little bit will make a big change in your overall health.