Diet-NutritionHigh Blood Pressure

Reducing our salt intake to lower blood pressure. Does it matter?

A review published on Medscape makes a strong case for connecting the dots that lead from salt intake to high blood pressure, and then to cardiovascular disease and death.

“There is virtual unanimity within the scientific community regarding the contribution of excessive sodium consumption to cardiovascular disease.”

It’s “unquestioned … that halving sodium levels in packaged and restaurant foods could save about 150,000 lives a year, especially among African Americans … and the elderly. ”

Proponents of this position are absolutely convinced, and they want the U.S. government to start a multipronged approach.

  • Educate the public about the risk of sodium
  • Pressure companies and restaurants to lower salt use
  • Have the FDA stop considering salt a safe substance
  • Recruit the Surgeon General to support the effort

In fact, there is another point of view, as told at the website,

“Twenty years ago, … the data were bad, but they arguably supported the benefits of salt reduction. Now, both the data and the science are much improved, but they no longer provide forceful support for the recommendations.”

Adding up the evidence. In a meta-analysis of 56 studies done since 1980 in people with normal blood pressure, extreme salt reduction offered little benefit.

The bottom line?

Today, the issue is whether making the effort to reduce salt intake, which might not be achievable by most people, can lower blood pressure by 1 or 2 millimeters of mercury.

For people with normal blood pressure, this small change would be meaningless, based on available data. For people with high blood pressure, a recommendation to “use less salt” might be reasonable.

Ultimately, drugs, not diet, will have a much greater effect.

8/8/06 22:56 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.