Quick, name your favorite treat! Chances are you picked something that involves both sugar and salt or you just couldn't decide between the two. Everyone knows that while chocolate on its own is delicious, chocolate-covered pretzels are next-level amazing. Same goes for kettle corn. Fries and a milkshake. Sea salt caramels. There's just something crave-worthy about sweet and salty mixed together. But new research says this tasty combo may be hurting your health more than eating just one taste profile alone.
Sugar and salt together can cause rapid-onset high blood pressure, according to a new study presented at the Experimental Biology 2016 meeting in San Diego. To test this, researchers divided rats into two groups and gave one the a drink that contained fructose (a type of sugar commonly found in fruit juices and sodas) with their food while the other group was given plain water. Next, they gave the sugar-fueled rats foods with additional salt. The blood pressure of the "sugar water" drinkers immediately skyrocketed while the blood pressure of the rats that drank only water did not. It seems it was the salty-sweet combination that did the most damage.
"[It is] the specific combination of fructose and high salt that rapidly increased blood pressure, resulting in hypertension," Kevin Gordish, Ph.D., lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, said in the press release.
He explained that this high blood pressure was linked to sodium retention (great, bloating!), and it also makes it harder for your body (or in this case, the rats' bodies) to get rid of the excess salt [typically through urination]. This double whammy equates to a sweet and salty nightmare that not only causes bloating but quickly increases your blood pressure—bad news for your heart and your waistline. Oh, and one more thing: Gordish also reported kidney damage in the rats with elevated blood pressure.
While rats are clearly not the same as you and me, and more research needs to be done to confirm the sweet-and-salty connection, there is plenty of evidence that overdoing it on sugar is bad for you. We're not saying you should never eat another sea salt caramel again, but strive for moderation and avoid getting sucked into the trap of the something-salty craving right after you've satisfied your need for something sweet.