Research Article

Intersalt: an international study of electrolyte excretion and blood pressure. Results for 24 hour urinary sodium and potassium excretion. Intersalt Cooperative Research Group.

BMJ 1988; 297 doi: (Published 30 July 1988) Cite this as: BMJ 1988;297:319


The relations between 24 hour urinary electrolyte excretion and blood pressure were studied in 10,079 men and women aged 20-59 sampled from 52 centres around the world based on a highly standardised protocol with central training of observers, a central laboratory, and extensive quality control. Relations between electrolyte excretion and blood pressure were studied in individual subjects within each centre and the results of these regression analyses pooled for all 52 centres. Relations between population median electrolyte values and population blood pressure values were also analysed across the 52 centres. Sodium excretion ranged from 0.2 mmol/24 h (Yanomamo Indians, Brazil) to 242 mmol/24 h (north China). In individual subjects (within centres) it was significantly related to blood pressure. Four centres found very low sodium excretion, low blood pressure, and little or no upward slope of blood pressure with age. Across the other 48 centres sodium was significantly related to the slope of blood pressure with age but not to median blood pressure or prevalence of high blood pressure. Potassium excretion was negatively correlated with blood pressure in individual subjects after adjustment for confounding variables. Across centres there was no consistent association. The relation of sodium to potassium ratio to blood pressure followed a pattern similar to that of sodium. Body mass index and heavy alcohol intake had strong, significant independent relations with blood pressure in individual subjects.