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The long term effects of advice to cut down on salt in food on deaths, cardiovascular disease and blood pressure in adults

Hooper L, Bartlett C, Davey Smith G, Ebrahim S
Published Online: 
21 January 2009

Intensive support and encouragement to reduce salt intake did lead to reduction in salt eaten. It also lowered blood pressure but only by a small amount (about 1 mmHg for systolic blood pressure, less for diastolic) after more than a year. This reduction was not enough to expect an important health benefit. It was also very hard to keep to a low salt diet. However, the reduction in blood pressure appeared larger for people with higher blood pressure.

There was not enough information to assess the effect of these changes in salt intake on health or deaths.

Evidence from a large and small trial showed that advice to reduce salt helps to maintain lower blood pressure following withdrawal of antihypertensive medication. If this is confirmed, with no increase in cardiovascular events, then comprehensive dietary and behavioural programmes in patients with elevated blood pressure requiring drug treatment would be justified.

See also the Cochrane review of short-term salt reduction trials: Jurgens 2003.