THREE articles in the most recent British Medical Journal (BMJ) examining three different research studies reported that decreasing dietary sodium consumption and increasing potassium intake would have "major health benefits across the world."
The first study involved an analysis of research focused on the effects of a long-term, modest reduction in sodium consumption on blood pressure.
The research used data from 34 trials that involved 3,320 participants and concluded that a modest reduction in sodium consumption for four weeks or more causes "a significant ... drop in blood pressure in both hypertensive and normotensive individuals."
In particular, the authors of the review said reducing sodium consumption to 3 g per day would have a greater impact than the current recommendations and "should become the long-term target for population salt intake."
The second study used data from 52 trials focused on adults and nine trials focused on children and concluded that decreased sodium intake in both adults and children reduces blood pressure. It also found that decreased sodium intake in adults lowers the risk of fatal cardiovascular disease and stroke.
The third study used data from 22 trials focused on the effect of increased potassium intake on risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
The authors of this review concluded that increased potassium intake not only reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension but is associated with a 24% lower risk of stroke.
The BMJ Case Journal said the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends decreasing dietary sodium consumption to less than 5 g (about one teaspoon) per person per day and set a goal of reducing sodium intake in the adult population globally 30% by 2025.
Evidence indicates that decreasing sodium consumption lowers blood pressure and thereby lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke, BMJ Case Journal said. Less is known about the possible benefits from increasing potassium intake, but low potassium consumption has been linked to elevated blood pressure, the journal said.
In the U.S., Americans consume nearly 3,400 mg of sodium per day, which, while considered widely worrisome among health professionals, is actually lower than the WHO recommendation and within the ranges recommended by the BMJ studies since 3,400 mg equals 3.4 g, or about two-thirds of a teaspoon.
Nevertheless, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans urges consumption of only 2,300 mg (2.3 g, or a half-teaspoon) per person per day.