Study Finds Diet, Sodium Both Help Lower Blood Pressure
A low-salt diet containing fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy products can lower blood pressure "just as medicine does," according to a new study appearing in today's New England Journal of Medicine. USA Today reports that the findings "confir[m] that diet should be a mainstay of [blood pressure] treatment" (Sternberg, USA Today, 1/4). The study also found that reducing salt consumption from the average U.S. level of nine grams a day to the government-recommended level of "about" six grams a day lowered the blood pressure of people on both "typical, high-fat, American" diets and "low-fat, low-cholesterol" diets. "More strikingly," the research found that people who cut their salt consumption to less than four grams a day -- two grams below the government's recommendation -- experienced "the greatest drop" in blood pressure.
In an editorial accompanying the report, Philip Greenland, chair of preventive medicine at Chicago's Northwestern University Medical Center, "asks whether a major change in U.S. salt consumption can occur without aggressive action from the government" (Wall Street Journal, 1/4). The study also found that following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet lowered the blood pressure of all participants, regardless of their sodium intake; that combining DASH with reduced salt consumption lowered blood pressure more than either strategy alone; and that reducing salt intake dropped blood pressure more for blacks than for whites and more for women than for men. Lead author Frank Sacks of Harvard Medical School "advocates public education and industry initiatives" to lower the amount of salt in packaged foods. "Industry should see this as an opportunity to create new products and build business," he said (USA Today, 1/4).