Just how effective is a low sodium diet to treat high blood pressure?

This Cochrane review presents the evidence.

First, the details.

  • Studies randomizing persons to low-sodium and high-sodium diets evaluating at least 1 of the above outcomes were included.
  • 167 studies were included.

And, the results.

Sodium reduction in people with normal blood pressure (BP):

  • Caucasians
    • Systolic BP -1.27 mmHg (significant)
    • Diastolic BP of -0.05 mmHg (insignificant)
  • African Americans
    • Systolic BP -4.02 mmHg (significant)
    • Diastolic BP -2.01 mmHg (insignificant)
  • Asians
    • Systolic BP -1.27 mmHg (insignificant)
    • Diastolic BP -1.68 mmHg (significant)

Among people with high blood pressure:

  • Caucasians
    • Systolic BP -5.48 mmHg (significant)
    • Diastolic BP -2.75 mmHg (significant)
  • African Americans
    • Systolic BP -6.44 mmHg (significant)
    • Diastolic BP -2.40 mmHg (significant)
  • Asians
    • Systolic BP -10.21 mmHg (significant)
    • Diastolic BP -2.60 mmHg (significant)

Sodium reduction resulted in significant increases in renin, aldosterone, noradrenaline, adrenaline, cholesterol, and triglyceride.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Sodium reduction resulted in a significant decrease in blood pressure of 1% (normotensives), 3.5% (hypertensives), and a significant increase in plasma renin, plasma aldosterone, plasma adrenaline, and plasma noradrenaline, a 2.5% increase in cholesterol, and a 7% increase in triglyceride.

So, lets say your systolic blood pressure is 140 (higher than 139 is considered hypertension). Your goal is to lower your systolic blood pressure to less than 120 mmHg (normal systolic blood pressure).

Now, a Caucasian might expect the low sodium diet to lower systolic blood pressure to 134 mmHg. You’re still hypertensive. The decline in systolic blood pressure is statistically significant, but not enough to get you to goal on its own. The same is true for African Americans and Asian Americans.

Lowering sodium is one of many life choices that contribute to lowering blood pressure, but on it’s not a wonder treatment.

More on that can be found here.=

11/20/11 20:39 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 www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.