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Researchers recently confirmed that reducing salt intake is still good advice for patients with hypertension. In addition, the New England Journal of Medicine study found that reducing salt intake while following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet lowers blood pressure even more effectively.
Researchers studied 412 participants, with and without hypertension, who were randomly assigned to eat a control diet typical of intake in the United States or the DASH diet, which is high in vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products. Within the assigned diet, participants ate foods with high, intermediate, or low levels of sodium for 30 consecutive days each, in random order.
• Lowering the sodium intake from the high to the intermediate level reduced the systolic blood pressure by 2.1 mmHg on the control diet and by 1.3 mmHg on the DASH diet.
• Reducing the sodium intake from the intermediate to the low level caused additional reductions of 4.6 mmHg on the control diet and 1.7 mmHg on the DASH diet.
• The DASH diet was associated with a significantly lower systolic blood pressure at each sodium level, with the difference being greater with high sodium levels than with low sodium levels. For example, the DASH diet with a low sodium level led to a mean systolic blood pressure that was 7.1 mmHg lower in participants without hypertension and 11.5 mmHg lower in participants with hypertension.
[See: Sacks FM, Svetky LP, Vollmer WM, et al. Effects on blood pressure of reduced dietary sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. New Engl J Med 2001; 344(1):3-10.]