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The issue of salt restriction for lowering blood pressure or heart disease may be the most controversial diet and health topic today. Many people have reduced their salt intake with the hope it will be good for them.

A new analysis of several previously published studies suggests not much benefit comes from salt restriction. From analysis of eleven trials with over 3,500 subjects, the researchers found that blood pressure changes were minimal (not more than one mm of mercury) and there was no effect on any cardiovascular events or death. They concluded that reducing salt intake may help hypertensive people stop their medication but that there are no other benefits.

My advice is to go on the DASH diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts, whether you have high blood pressure or not; start an exercise program; and add enough salt to your food to make it taste good to you. If you avoid most processed foods, as the DASH diet recommends, you will probably be taking in far less salt than you were before you started the diet even if you use reasonable amounts of salt when you prepare your vegetables, whole grains and beans. Severe salt restriction is not healthy, it prevents you from exercising and it may even raise blood pressure in some people. Many doctors just tell recommend salt restriction, but you will have more success with the DASH diet.

1) BMJ 2002;325:628 ( 21 September )

2) Nonhypertensive cardiac effects of a high salt diet. Current Hypertension Reports, 2002, Vol 4, Iss 1, pp 13-17. G Hu, Q Qiao, J Tuomilehto. Hu G, Natl Publ Hlth Inst, Dept Epidemiol & Hlth Promot, Diabet & Genet Epidemiol Unit, Mannerheimintie 166, FIN-00300 Helsinki, FINLAND

Checked 8/31/05

May 19th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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