SEP 14, 2021 2:00 PM PDT

A lower sodium diet decreases the chance of stroke and other heart disease

It’s been relatively common knowledge that the consumption of certain foods lowers your risk of health complications. A diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and low in trans fats, sodium, and added sugars tends to lead to better overall health. More specifically, a diet lower in sodium and higher in potassium has been shown to lower blood pressure. However, the effect of a low-salt diet on other aspects of cardiovascular health, such as the likelihood of a stroke, is relatively uncertain.

New research by Bruce Neal from the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, Australia and a team of international colleagues studied the effect of salt on adult diets in rural China, with a specific eye for the rate of strokes depending on the amount of sodium in a given diet. About 21,000 people participated in the study, and either had a history of stroke or were over 60 years old with high blood pressure. Half of the participants were given a salt substitute (comprised of 75% sodium chloride and 25% potassium chloride) and the remaining half were given regular salt (100% sodium chloride) to use in their cooking for about five years.

After the five years, researchers found that the likelihood of a stroke was lower for those who used the salt substitute than for those who used regular salt in their diets. Results from the study suggest that those who used the salt substitute were 14% less likely to have a stroke and 13% less likely to experience a major cardiovascular event. Moreover, results suggest that those who used the lower sodium alternative were about 12% less likely to die of any cause.

Lower salt alternatives tend to be cost effective, and therefore the research team suggests replacing regular salt with a lower salt alternative, given it has relatively positive health effects. The team found no adverse effects, and hopes that their results inspire policymakers to consider enforcing the switch to lower sodium alternatives in the food industry.

 

Sources: New England Journal of Medicine, Science, MedScape

About the Author
  • Brittany has a PhD in Biological Anthropology and is currently a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Biology at North Carolina State University. She studies human and primate evolution using 3D scanning technology and statistical analysis to answer questions about where we come from, and to whom we're related. She is also a freelance science writer, focusing on evolutionary biology and human health and medicine,
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