Study: Cutting 1 Teaspoon of Salt As Good As Blood-Pressure Meds

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Nov. 13, 2023 -- Cutting your salt intake by 1 teaspoon daily provides the same blood-pressure-lowering benefits as popular hypertension medications, says a new study published in JAMA Network.

“In the study, middle age to elderly participants reduced their salt intake by about one teaspoon a day compared with their usual diet. The result was a decline in systolic blood pressure by about 6 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), which is comparable to the effect produced by a commonly utilized first-line medication for high blood pressure,” Deepak Gupta, MD, an associate professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and co-principal investigator, said in a news release.

Participating in the study were 213 people aged 50-75 who whose blood pressure was measured while they were on their regular diets as well as high- and low-sodium diets. About a quarter of them had normal blood pressure and another 25% had untreated high blood pressure. About 20% had blood pressure under control and 31% did not.

During a week of high-salt eating, the participants ate their normal diet plus two bouillon packets, which added about 2,200 milligrams of sodium. During the low-salt week, they ate food and snacks prepared for them, with instructions not to eat anything extra. The goal of the low-salt week was to give each person only 500 milligrams of salt daily.

The low-sodium diet resulted in an average 8 mm HG reduction in systolic blood pressure, which is the first number in a blood pressure reading, compared to a high-sodium diet. The low-salt diet produced a 6 mm HG reduction compared to a normal diet. 

“We found that 70-75% of all people, regardless of whether they are already on blood pressure medications or not, are likely to see a reduction in their blood pressure if they lower the sodium in their diet,” co-principal investigator Norrina Allen, PhD, professor of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in the news release.

High blood pressure is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the world. The American Heart Association recommends that a person’s total daily sodium intake should be less than 1,500 mg.