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Salt & High Blood Pressure

By on May 4, 2011

Many African Americans are aware of the dangers associated with a diet with high salt content, sending millions to re-think their traditional soul food dinners, family recipes, and even dining habits. Now that we’ve been conditioned to minimize salt intake to avoid high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, a new study throws salt (excuse the pun) on our collective efforts.

A study found that people who ate lots of salt were not more likely to get high blood pressure. Hmmm. In fact, it found that people were less likely to die of heart disease than those with a low salt intake. Again, hmmm. The study was done exclusively with people of European descent.

The findings “certainly do not support the current recommendation to lower salt intake in the general population,” study author Dr. Jan Staessen, of the University of Leuven in Belgium, told Reuters Health.

The recently revised U.S. guidelines recommend that Americans consume less than 2,300 milligrams of salt daily – 1,500 mg in certain people who are more at risk for high blood pressure or heart disease.

While previous trials suggested a blood pressure benefit with lower salt intake, research has yet to show whether that translates into better overall heart health in the wider population.

The researchers used data from two different studies, incorporating a total of about 3,700 white Europeans who had their salt consumption measured through urine samples at the start of the studies. Staessen and his colleagues broke the participants up into three groups: those with highest and lowest salt intakes, and those with average intake.

The findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The chance of getting heart and blood vessel diseases did not differ in the three groups. However, participants with the lowest salt intake had the highest rate of death from heart disease during the follow up (4 percent), and people who ate the most salt had the lowest (less than 1 percent).

“It’s clear that one should be very careful in advocating generalized reduction in sodium intake in the population at large,” Staessen said. “There might be some benefits, but there might also be some adverse effects.” Consumers shouldn’t change their salt-eating behavior based on the limited studies that have tried to determine the link between sodium and heart risks, added Cohen, who was not involved in the current research.

The authors caution that their analysis included only white Europeans, and so the results may not translate to people of other ethnicities. So what does that mean for African Americans in particular who are disproportionately affected by heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, etc.?

Overall, nutritionists and health personnel will affirm that too much salt is never a good thing for your health, so continued vigilance in managing sodium intake is warranted.


  1. Staff Contributor

    September 25, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    I think you are absolutely right!

  2. houstonmacbro

    September 25, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    I can’t help but think that lower salt consumption for everyone is better than high salt diets, regardless of blood pressure readings.

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