The Truth About Salt & Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

The Truth About Salt & Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
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The initial recommendation to ‘eat less salt’ stems from research by Lewis Dahl in the 1950’s, who decided feeding rats 500 grams of sodium per day (almost 50 times the average intake) was viable evidence for showing an association between sodium intake and hypertension (high blood pressure).

But if that wasn’t misleading enough, he later followed up this research with several studies identifying correlations between populations with a high average salt intake and high blood pressure.

Which, similar to the Seven Country Study on fat intake (from Ancel Keys in the 1970s), was full of scientific flaws. With a future analysis finding no association between the 2 variables. And sadly, just like low-fat, suggesting the opposite:

An increase in blood pressure with a reduction in salt intake!

Although before we get into that, the reason there’s a lack of association in the first place, is because elevated blood pressure is a symptom not a cause. With salt reduction doing nothing for heart disease because the cause of hypertension (and heart disease) is obesity, insulin resistance, and elevated triglycerides (Syndrome X) - not excess salt!

For instance, in a 1998 paper in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers showed that hypertension is the 4th and final step in the progression from ‘Syndrome X’ to ‘The Deadly Quartet’

  • At 2 weeks – insulin resistance (hyperinsulinemia)
  • At 2 months – elevated triglycerides (hyperlipidemia)
  • At 6 months – obesity (high bodyfat)
  • At 12 months – high blood pressure (hypertension)

Meaning, sodium reduction can lower blood pressure in the short-term, but does NOTHING for the other 3 problems.

“Even if a low sodium diet could lower the blood pressure of most people (probably not true) and both the diet and the change in blood pressure could be sustained (not established), this alone would not justify a recommendation to reduce sodium intake.” Alderman, 1997 BMJ

The disturbing part being, that reducing your salt intake too much appears to elevate your cardiovascular risk:

Also known as, the whole reason you stopped eating salt, and the whole reason you have elevated blood pressure in the first place!

With the most notable evidence coming in a 1998 review study in the Lancet that analyzed NHANES data on 11,348 North Americans in the early 70’s, and determining that the risk of cardiovascular mortality was inversely related to salt take.


And a 2nd NHANES study in the American Journal of Medicine determined that sodium intake of less than 2400mg (or what the FDA and AHA recommend as a daily intake) results in a 50% higher risk of heart disease!

Realistically, there’s only one food you need to lower if you have high blood pressure. And aside from reducing hypertension it addresses the Syndrome X (triglycerides, insulin resistance, obesity) that’s causing it.

I’m talking about lowering your carbohydrate (sugar) intake; which among other things:

And drops your blood pressure!

Since low insulin levels make us release salt, while high insulin (from excess carbohydrates) makes us hold onto it.

Interestingly, lowering your carbohydrate intake can drop your blood pressure so fast, that it has forced some nutrition advisors (me included) to lean towards making salt a requirement. Especially for those with a high activity level.

As basically:

When carbohydrate intake is excessive, salt becomes damaging. When carbohydrate intake is restricted, salt becomes critical.

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