Less Sodium Intake Doesn’t Lower Blood Pressure, Study Claims

Eating less salt has been touted for years as an essential of eating a healthy blood pressure diet. But a new U.S. study casts doubt on this notion, suggesting lowering sodium intake might not be as helpful for people with hypertension as previously believed.

Several large-scale studies in the past have assessed the link between sodium intake and high blood pressure and established that high-salt diets can cause blood pressure levels to soar that can damage the heart.

However, a team of researchers led by Lynn L. Moore, an associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts, came up with controversial evidence showing low sodium-diet intake does not protect against deadly high blood pressure.

In their long-range heart study, Moore and her team followed 2,632 men and women over 16 years and found consuming less sodium was not associated with lower blood pressure. They found, study subjects who consumed under 2,500 milligrams of sodium each day had higher blood pressure than those who ate higher than recommended quantities of sodium.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams, about a teaspoon, of sodium a day.

But the current study shows, the participants who took more than the recommended levels of 6g of salt a day, or 2,300 milligrams per day, actually had better readings.

“People who were on a lower-sodium [salt] diet in general over the next 20 or 30 years actually had no benefit, specifically in terms of their blood pressure or their risk of developing heart disease,” said Moore.

Moore’s team also found that increasing the intake of potassium – a mineral commonly found in bananas and avocados – had beneficial effects on blood pressure and heart health.

“Higher intakes of potassium were strongly associated with both a lower blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease,” Moore said. “The same was true for magnesium.”

She concluded: “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.”

Meanwhile, the AHA has questioned the study’s validity and affirmed it would continue to stick to the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans that has set the recommended sodium intake at 2,300mg per day.

Moore’s team was scheduled to present their findings Tuesday at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting, in Chicago.