This Week In The Bmj

Long term effects of low salt diets are unclear

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 21 September 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:b

Restricting sodium intake in the diet reduces blood pressure, though effects on mortality and cardiovascular morbidity remain unclear. Cohort studies have reported inconsistent findings of protection and harm. Hooper and colleagues (p 628) carried out a systematic review of randomised controlled trials to determine the long term effects of advice to reduce sodium intake on cardiovascular events and deaths, blood pressure, sodium excretion, quality of life, and use of antihypertensive drugs. In the 11 long term trials they identified there were few reports of deaths and cardiovascular events. Meta-analysis showed that blood pressure and sodium excretion were reduced by salt restriction. If they restrict their salt intake people on antihypertensive drugs may be able to stop their medication while maintaining good blood pressure control. There are, however, doubts about effects on health, and further evaluation of effects on mortality and morbidity are needed.

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