More Potassium, Less Salt In Diet Increases Health Benefits
April 5, 2013

More Potassium, Less Salt In Diet Increases Health Benefits

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Three new coordinated reviews have concluded one thing: Taking in less salt and more potassium reduces the risk of stroke and could make you live longer. These studies found that reducing the amount of salt in a diet can lower blood pressure, thereby lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke. Additionally, an increase in potassium can also help heart functions without adversely effecting kidney functions or hormone levels.

With this information in hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) has now set a global goal to reduce the world´s salt intake by 5 to 6 grams per person per day by the year 2025.

Despite these results, some salt supporters are pushing back against this study.

The first of the three studies found that even a small reduction in salt intake for more than four weeks was enough to significantly lower blood pressure in those with high and normal blood pressure levels. After analyzing 3,000 adults from 34 different studies these effects were seen in both genders and across all races. This lowered blood pressure also led to a lower risk of stroke in these adults.

A second review of 56 studies discovered similar results. A reduction in salt intake reduced the risk of heart disease, lowered blood pressure and had no adverse effects on other parts of the body. This second review also studied the effects of reducing salt levels in children and recorded a lowered blood pressure as well.

The third review studied the effects of an increase in potassium on heart health. This study, which was performed for the WHO discovered that a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables which are packed with potassium can also lead to a reduction in blood pressure.

This study analyzed data from 128,000 “healthy participants” from 33 clinical trials. The results of this third study show that an increase in potassium was linked to a 24 percent decrease in stroke risk. This study also discovered that hypertensive adults saw the most significant benefits from an increase in potassium.

Feng He, PhD, from the Queen Mary University of London, discussed the relationship between salt and blood pressure, saying that these results "provide further strong support for a reduction in population salt intake, which will result in a lower population blood pressure and, thereby, a reduction in strokes, heart attacks, and heart failure."

"The current recommendations to reduce salt intake from 9 to 12 to 5 to 6 grams/day will have a major effect on blood pressure,”continued He, "but a further reduction to 3 grams/day will have a greater effect and should become the long-term target for population salt intake."

Though these three reviews have shown a clear correlation between reducing salt intake and lowering blood pressure, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association (AHA) believes the changes in American diets might be slow.

"The food industry is making modest reductions of the amount of sodium in their products,” said Elliot Antman in an interview with USA Today's Nanci Hellmich. "While this is commendable, it still leaves too much sodium in the U.S. food supply.”

Antman also said Americans have been eating so much salt for so long that they may not like the flavor of foods once it´s been removed.

Yet, when faced with this research, Morton Satin, the vice president of science and research for the Salt Institute, says: "There is no evidence that salt reduction improves overall health outcomes."

Satin believes that blood pressure medications are a much more effective way to drop blood pressure and likely prefers people leave the salt in their food.

"I cannot understand how our entire public health establishment can go on talking about salt reduction and ignoring every single peer-reviewed publication that counters the salt-restriction agenda," Satin says.