Low-fat, low-salt diet lowers blood pressure

December 18, 2001 in Healthy Eating, Heart Health

Low-fat, low-salt diet lowers blood pressure

According to a study from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Maryland a low-fat diet full of fruits and vegetables but little salt can lead to a significant drop in blood pressure--even in people with normal blood pressure. Previous research on the link between sodium and blood pressure has provided mixed results in different groups of people.

In an editorial published with the new findings, some experts point out that although a very-low-salt diet can lower blood pressure, few studies have examined whether the diet reduces complications of blood pressure such as heart attack and stroke.

In a study of 412 people who were randomly assigned to a typical North American diet or a low-fat diet called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). The DASH diet focuses on fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts. Researchers also varied the participants' salt intake, with each group consuming 3.5 grams, 2.3 grams and 1.2 grams per day for a month at a time during the 3-month study.

Both the DASH diet and salt reduction lowered blood pressure, but the drop was largest when the two approaches were combined. Cutting back on salt lowered blood pressure in many groups, including men as well as women, blacks and whites, the young and old, and people with normal or high blood pressure.

Given the well-established link between high blood pressure and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, Vollmer's team concludes that the DASH diet in combination with low sodium intake "should be broadly recommended" for preventing and treating high blood pressure.

The bottom line from these study findings -- eat fresh fruits and vegetables, don't add salt during food preparation or at the table, and avoid processed prepared foods.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.