High fructose corn syrup is an increasingly common sweetener found in processed food and some health advocates blame it in part for the recent rise in obesity. A new study suggests it could also contribute to hypertension, or high blood pressure.

Diana Jalal, MD, of the University of Colorado Denver Health Sciences Center, and her colleagues studied the issue in a large representative population of US adults. They examined 4,528 adults 18 years of age or older with no prior history of hypertension.

Fructose intake was calculated based on a dietary questionnaire, and foods such as fruit juices, soft drinks, bakery products, and candy were included. Jalals team found that people who ate or drank more than 74 grams per day of fructose the equivalent of 2.5 sugary soft drinks per day - increased their risk of developing hypertension.

Specifically, a diet of more than 74 grams per day of fructose led to a 28 percent, 36 percent, and 87 percent higher risk for blood pressure levels of 135/85, 140/90, and 160/100 mmHg, respectively. A normal blood pressure reading is below 120/80 mmHg.

These results indicate that high fructose intake in the form of added sugars is significantly and independently associated with higher blood pressure levels in the US adult population with no previous history of hypertension, the authors concluded.

Additional studies are needed to see if low fructose diets can normalize blood pressure and prevent the development of hypertension, they said.

The study said Americans consume 30 percent more fructose than 20 years ago and up to four times more than 100 years ago, when obesity rates were less than 5 percent. While this increase mirrors the dramatic rise in the prevalence of hypertension, studies have been inconsistent in linking excess fructose in the diet to hypertension.