Don’t blame salt alone for high blood pressure (BP) : Study

Researchers found that adolescent girls who had more potassium in their diet had lower blood pressure (BP) and their salt intake, even if it is bit more than what is recommended, has no major impact, proving several studies in the past which showed similar results among the adults.

Linking lack of potassium in the diet and not salt intake, researchers reversed long-held premise that more salt accelerates BP more.

“The data indicated no overall effect of sodium intake alone on BP, and, thus do not support the call for a global reduction in sodium intake among children and adolescents,” said Lynn Moore from Boston University School of Medicine.

As per the recommended levels, sale intake of 3,000 mg daily or more appears to have no adverse effect on blood pressure in adolescent girls, while those girls who consumed 2,400 mg of potassium per day or more had lower blood pressure at the end of adolescence, said the study in its findings.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends people to consume no more than 2,000 mg of sodium (salt) a day, while the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend less than 2,300 mg of salt per day for all healthy individuals aged from two to 50.

Potassium is found in foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas, tomato sauce, green vegetables, citrus fruits, fish, yoghurt and fat-free milk.

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Potassium-rich foods reduce BP in later-adolescent stage. 


To study the long-term effects of salt intake and potassium on blood pressure at the end of adolescence, the researchers roped in 2,185 girls aged between 9 and 10 and they have been studied for 10 years.

The findings finally proved their contention that girls who consumed more potassium, say 2,400 mg per day or more, had lower late-adolescent systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to those girls who had consumed less potassium.

So, this study emphasizes the need to develop methods for estimating salt sensitivity to be used in future studies of high-risk populations, suggest researchers. They also point out the  potential health risks associated with the existing low dietary potassium intakes among US children and adolescents. The findings have been published in the journal JAMA Paediatrics.

In the past too, studies have shown that increased potassium intake reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension and has no adverse effect on blood lipid concentrations, catecholamine concentrations, or renal function in adults.

Higher potassium intake was associated with a 24% lower risk of stroke, suggesting that increased potassium intake is potentially beneficial to most people without impaired renal handling of potassium for the prevention and control of elevated blood pressure and stroke.

However, in modern society, the potassium intake has been markedly going down, according to a 2013 study by Norwich Medical school. It said, “Food processing reduces the potassium content of food, and a diet high in processed foods and low in fresh fruits and vegetables is often lacking in potassium.”

Data shows that the average potassium consumption in many countries is below 70-80 mmol/day, the value recommended by the 2002 Joint World Health Organization (WHO)/Food and Agriculture Organization Expert Consultation, and even fewer countries report an average consumption of 90 mmol/day as recommended such as the United Kingdom, Spain, Mexico, and Belgium.

No countries report an average population consumption of 120 mmol/day as recommended by the United States, Canada, Republic of Korea, and Bulgaria. Lower potassium consumption has been associated with elevated blood pressure, hypertension, and stroke, and higher levels of consumption could be protective against these conditions.



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