What’s the long term effect of salt restriction on your health?

Lowering sodium in your diet will lower your blood pressure, but what about other cardiovascular benefits?

New data suggest, “Sodium reduction … may also reduce long term risk of cardiovascular events.”

First, the details.

  • 744 participants in TOHP I and 2382 in TOHP II (Trials of Hypertension Prevention) studies were randomly assigned to sodium reduction or no sodium reduction.
  • They had “prehypertension” — borderline high blood pressure and taking no antihypertensive medication.
  • Those assigned to sodium reduction followed diets with about 2.5 to 2 grams of sodium per day.
  • 10 years after the end of TOHP I and 5 years after TOHP II the researchers collected data by phone and mail in order to see differences in the occurrence of cardiovascular disease, as defined by heart attack, stroke, or death due to a cardiovascular cause.

And, the results.

  • 77% of the participants in these studies responded to the survey request.
  • The risk of a cardiovascular event was 25% to 30% lower among those in the salt restriction group after adjusting for potential confounding variables such as age, race, and sex, sodium excretion, and weight.
  • There was no difference in death rates between the groups.

The bottom line”
In people with borderline high blood pressure, lowering salt intake makes sense based on these results.

The researchers concluded that their results “reinforce recommendations to lower dietary sodium intake as a means of preventing cardiovascular disease in the general population.”

The biggest weakness of the study is that the researchers relied on the accuracy of the participants’ responses to the survey rather than measure the sodium intake, etc themselves.

However, the researchers counter, “Although we cannot rule out social desirability bias in reporting, the findings are supported by evidence that preference for salt can decrease after about 3 months on a reduced sodium intake diet.”

If this were a CAM study, the authors would have concluded that more research is needed.

6/2/07 15:03 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.