Sodium Intake May Not Affect Hypertension

High- and low-sodium diets could result in higher blood pressure.

In most cases, patients with hypertension are told to reduce their intake of sodium and consume a healthier diet to prevent stroke and other cardiovascular-related events.

A study presented at the Experimental Biology 2017 meeting found that consuming a low-sodium diet did not necessarily translate to lower blood pressure. These findings call into question the benefits of a low-sodium diet and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

"We saw no evidence that a diet lower in sodium had any long-term beneficial effects on blood pressure," said researcher Lynn L. Moore, DSc. "Our findings add to growing evidence that current recommendations for sodium intake may be misguided."

The current 2015 to 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that healthy individuals consume less than 2300-mg of sodium/day. The American Heart Association recommends that reducing sodium intake to 1500-mg/day would result in a 25.6% drop in blood pressure, as well as $26.2 billion in health care savings.

Included in the new study were 2632 individuals aged 30 to 64 who were also included in the Framingham Offspring Study. At baseline, all participants had normal blood pressure.

Over 16 years, the authors discovered that patients who consumed less than 2500-mg of sodium per day had higher blood pressure than patients who consumed higher amounts of sodium, according to the study.

Previous studies show that individuals with low-sodium diets and those with high-sodium diets had a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Individuals with the lowest risk were observed to fall in the middle, which is the average American.

"Our new results support these other studies that have questioned the wisdom of low dietary sodium intakes in the general population," Dr Moore said.

Additionally, the authors discovered that patients who had diets high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium were likely to have lower blood pressure over time.

Interestingly, individuals with higher intakes of sodium (3717-mg per day) and potassium (3211-mg) had the lowest blood pressure, according to the study. The findings suggest that eating a diet rich in these minerals could be beneficial. Individuals can consume these minerals from nuts, legumes, and whole grains, which are all known to be healthy.

"This study and others point to the importance of higher potassium intakes, in particular, on blood pressure and probably cardiovascular outcomes as well," Dr Moore said. "I hope that this research will help refocus the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans on the importance of increasing intakes of foods rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium for the purpose of maintaining a healthy blood pressure.”

The authors acknowledge there are individuals who are sensitive to salt who would benefit from lowered sodium intake. Additional research is needed to determine the appropriate intake of the sodium and potassium for salt-sensitive individuals, according to the study.