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Pathogenesis and etiology of essential hypertension: role of dietary carbohydrate

Medical Hypotheses
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.mehy.2004.10.009
  • Medicine


Summary The development of essential hypertension (EH) is proposed to be the result of a cascade of metabolic alterations, with high insulin levels/hyperinsulinemia and an abnormal reaction to the vasodilatory effect of insulin as the initiating factors. It is well established that insulin causes vasodilatation of peripheral resistance vessels. In normal subjects, this insulin-induced vasodilatation and decrease of the peripheral vascular resistance (PVR) is compensated by an SNS-mediated re-vasoconstriction in order to avoid hypotension, with the net effect of a slight decrease in blood pressure and no significant effect on peripheral vascular resistance. In contrast, in genetically predisposed subjects, prone to the development of essential hypertension, the insulin-induced vasodilatation is compensated by an increased heart rate and cardiac output (to avoid hypotension), mediated by an abnormal sympathetic overactivity, (characterised by high norepinephrine spillover rates and (frequently) a hyperdynamic circulation), while the PVR remains low during the early phase of developing EH. During the course of chronic hypertension, the SNS-overactivity leads to progressive trophic alterations of vessel walls, and structural and functional vascular remodeling, with narrowing of arterial resistance vessels and an increasing PVR. Vascular remodeling and lumen narrowing not only affect peripheral resistance vessels, but also kidney vessels. Narrowing and decreased distensibility of preglomerular kidney vessels lead to chronic activation of the Renin–Angiotensin–Aldosterone-System, with reinforcement and fixation of hypertension. High-glycemic index nutrition is suggested to play a key role in the etiology of hypertension: The chronic stimulus of pancreatic β-cells due to high-glycemic index nutrition may cause cell hypertrophy and dysfunction, resulting in postprandial hyperinsulinemia, and – in susceptible subjects – the development of EH. Since significant evidence suggests that hyperinsulinemia also represents a key factor for the development of obesity, insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome, the well-known common association of EH and these metabolic alterations becomes quite understandable.

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