High blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease, which can lead to strokes and heart attacks. For many years, medical professionals have been advising those with high blood pressure to lower their sodium (salt) intake. The NHS has set its recommended daily intake of salt, for adults, at no more than 6 grams. A long term study has now shown where blood pressure may not be affected by sodium intake at all, and that consuming higher amounts of salt may even help to lower blood pressure levels in some people.
When Does Lower Salt Consumption Help?
There are many people with high blood pressure that do benefit from lowering their sodium intake. These individuals are ‘salt-sensitive,’ however, which may have been the initial cause of their high blood pressure. This condition is believed to affect about 10% of those with high blood pressure. Dr. Lynn Moore, from Boston University, has said that lowering their salt levels will help these individuals control their blood pressure, and decrease the possibility of developing heart disease. The remaining 90% of people with high blood pressure may actually benefit from the salt in their diet, as it can raise hormones which help to keep blood pressure normal.
Sixteen Years of Studying Sodium Intake
Over the past 16 years, researchers at Boston University have conducted a study which involved 2632 individuals, between the ages of 30 and 64, who had normal blood pressure levels at the beginning of the study. Their observations were presented at the Experimental Biology 2017 meeting, recently held in Chicago. Surprisingly, the results showed that those who consumed less than the NHS recommended amount of salt over this period had higher blood pressure than participants that consumed moderate amounts daily.
The team used this information to conclude that lowering salt intake would only effectively reduce blood pressure in some people. In others, it may make them more likely to develop high blood pressure, and subsequently heart disease. The focus most medical practitioners place on salt intake, for those with high blood pressure, has caused the importance of including certain amounts of potassium, magnesium and calcium in their diet to be overlooked. These minerals are essential in controlling blood pressure and may have contributed to the team’s results, taking into consideration the other aspects of the participants’ diets, as they are found in bananas and potatoes.
Other studies, which took place over shorter periods, also demonstrate the same results as participants that consumed both the lowest and highest amounts of sodium displayed the highest blood pressure levels. Individuals with the lowest risk of high blood pressure consumed a moderate amount of salt each day, without overdoing it. Other experts believe that the evidence presented is misleading, as there are many studies that show where a high salt intake does contribute to high blood pressure.