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Salt substitutes could reduce risk by 40%

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Using salt substitutes to reduce regular salt intake may help reduce high blood pressure, research suggests. Sophia Hsin/Stocksy
  • Excessive salt consumption is a known risk factor for developing high blood pressure.
  • New research shows that replacing regular table salt with a salt substitute could help regulate blood pressure in the elderly.
  • Salt substitutes help minimize sodium intake while increasing potassium intake, both of which are associated with healthy blood pressure levels.

Overconsumption of salt is a global factor in cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.

New research indicates that using salt substitutes – tasty food additives with less sodium – instead of table salt could help reduce the risk of high blood pressure.

An article published on February 12 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that older adults with higher than normal blood pressure who used a salt substitute had a lower incidence of developing high blood pressure. They also had lower blood pressure overall than those who used table salt.

In addition, the incidences of arterial hypotension (hypotension), a potential health problem for people with healthy blood pressure, were almost identical between the two groups.

“This means that the salt substitute is beneficial not only for people with hypertension, which has been shown in previous studies, but also for people with normal blood pressure, and is safe,” Dr. Yangfeng Wu, Ph.D., director director of the Clinical Research Institute of Peking University and lead author of the study, said Medical News Today.

The research comes from DECIDE-Salt Trial, a multicenter trial conducted in 48 elderly care facilities in China. Approximately 75% of participants were male and the average age of participants was 71 years.

Throughout the two-year trial, scientists wanted to see how different salt initiatives would affect participants’ blood pressure.

The 2 × 2 factorial design compared habitual salt intake and salt intake progressively restricted to regular salt or a salt substitute.

Participants who received the salt substitute demonstrated an improvement in their blood pressure.

To explore these findings further, the researchers wanted to see how the salt substitute would only affect individuals with blood pressure below 140/90 mm Hg.

The study involved about 600 participants, divided equally into two groups: one who received regular salt and one who received a salt substitute.

To be included in the trial, participants had to have blood pressure below 140/90 mm Hg to meet the study authors’ “normal” requirements and could not take any blood pressure medication.

However, it is important to note that the ideal blood pressure is 120/80. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)anything above this value is considered at risk or prehypertensive.

Over the two-year period of the study, researchers found that individuals in the salt substitute group were 40 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than those in the salt group.

There were 60 new cases of high blood pressure among those using the salt substitute, compared to 95 cases among those using salt.

At the same time, the cases of arterial hypotension were approximately the same: 16.6% of subjects in the salt substitute group and 11.7% of subjects in the salt group. The researchers did not consider this result statistically significant.

The average blood pressure measurement between the two groups was significant. Compared to the baseline, the salt substitutes group saw an average decrease of 8 points systolic blood pressure (the top number) and a less robust, but still significant, 2-point decrease in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number).

“The study demonstrated that mean blood pressure increased in the regular salt control group, but remained unchanged in the salt replacement group,” Dr. Wu explained.

The authors note that the salt substitute appears to prevent the increase in blood pressure rather than causing a decrease in blood pressure. This distinction helps explain why occurrences of low blood pressure have remained about the same.

Salt consumption has been linked to high blood pressure and other health problems such as:

  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • kidney damage
  • osteoporosis

Growing evidence shows that salt substitutes can be an inexpensive and effective way to reduce salt intake.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Dr. Rik Olde Engberink, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Amsterdam UMC, examined the potential public health effects of large-scale use of salt substitutes. He wrote that attempts to reduce salt consumption globally have been an “unsuccessful strategy” and noted that salt substitution is an “attractive alternative.”

“Ideally, individuals should choose the right products at the supermarket that contain a low amount of salt and should not add any themselves. Dr Engberink said MNT.

“However, this is quite difficult for individuals. I would prefer my patients to eat less than 5 grams of salt instead of eating 10 grams of salt substitute,” he said.

Hidden salt in foods

Sodium consumption has less to do with the salt shaker at the table and more to do with the way foods are processed today.

Just about 10% of sodium intake comes from the salt shakerthe vast majority comes from refined and processed foods and catering.

Kristin Kirkpatrick, dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic and author of Regenerative healthsaid MNT that she recommends avoiding processed foods and replacing salt with herbs and roots.

“Ultra-processed foods are often very high in salt. Salt substitutes may play a role. However, it’s often not my primary behavior change that I try to help with my patients,” she said.

Salt and sodium are often used interchangeably, but it’s important to know the difference.

Table salt is made from sodium chloride, which is approximately 40% sodium and 60% chloride. So in a given amount of salt, say a tablespoon, only 40% is sodium, which is why the daily recommendations for salt intake differs from sodium intake.

The World Health Organization recommends consuming less 2,000 milligrams of sodium or 5 grams of salt per day. In the United States, less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day is recommended.

Sodium doesn’t come exclusively from salt either, it’s also found in preservatives like sodium nitrate and baking soda.

Different salt substitutes

On the other hand, salt substitutes, like the one used in the study, replace some of the sodium with another mineral, potassium, as well as flavorings, such as mushrooms, lemon, herbs or seaweed.

In the DECIDE-Salt trial, the salt substitute consisted of 62.5% sodium chloride, 25% potassium chloride, and 12.5% ​​dried food flavors.

Salt substitutes also provide a dual benefit by reducing sodium intake and increasing potassium intake – both methods that have been shown to be effective. improve blood pressure.

“Using a potassium-enriched salt substitute will reduce sodium intake and increase potassium intake at the same time, and will have a “double effect” in lowering blood pressure without major changes in habits life is necessary,” said Dr. Wu.

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