Salt Causes Hypertension Called a Myth?

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Alan Aragon, MS, in an article published in Men?s Health that was picked up as a lead article on msn.com in September 2007 labeled the idea that salt causes high blood pressure (BP) a ?myth?.1 Mr. Aragon?s article implies that reducing salt intake is of little or no value to treat or prevent high BP.

According to Aragon?s article, ??. it?s been known for 20 years that people with high BP who don?t want to lower their salt intake can simply consume more potassium-containing foods.? Really?! The DASH Sodium Trial showed that reducing dietary sodium intake by 1,800 mg per day reduced BP slightly more than just adopting the DASH diet, which is high in potassium and calcium rich foods.2 Eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and seafood does help to lower BP, but to imply salt is not a far greater problem in promoting high BP is naive. A recent study of chimpanzees consuming a diet high in potassium and calcium showed their BP still increased significantly as the amount of salt added to the chimp diet increased.3 Since chimpanzees are physiologically very similar to humans this study has clear implications for how much salt people should be consuming.

Mr. Aragon states ?Large-scale scientific reviews have determined there?s no need for people with normal BP to restrict their sodium intake.? Really?! Not according to a follow-up study that examined people who had participated in the Trial of Hypertensive Prevention (TOPH) 10 to 15 years earlier. The TOPH study randomly assigned 3,000+ people, who were 30-54 years old, with high-normal BP, to a group counseled to reduce their salt intake by 25 to 35% or to a control group. After the TOPH study ended, most of the participants in the reduced salt group continued to consume less salt than did those in the control group. The risk of stroke, heart attack and death from CVD was compared in these two groups. The results showed the risk of CVD events in those who were counseled to consume less salt was 25% less and total mortality was also 20% less in those who had been counseled to consume less salt compared to controls.4

By James J. Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN

References

1 health.msn.com

2 N Engl J Med 2001;334:3-10

3 Circulation 2007;116:1563-8

4 BMJ 2007;334:885

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