Three research articles recently published in BMJ have reportedly concluded that reducing dietary salt consumption and increasing potassium intake “will have major health and cost benefits across the world,” according to an April 4, 2013, summary in BMJ Case Reports. The first study involved a systematic review and meta-analysis focusing on “the effect of longer term modest salt reduction on blood pressure.” Feng He, et al., “Effect of longer term modest salt reduction on blood pressure: Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials,” BMJ, April 2013. Using data from 34 trials with 3,320 participants, the study’s authors determined that “a modest reduction in salt intake for four or more weeks cause significant and, from a population viewpoint, important falls in blood pressure in both hypertensive and normotensive individuals.” In particular, they argued that reducing salt intake to 3 grams per day “will have a greater effect” than current recommendations “and should become the long term target for population salt intake.”

The second research article also conducted a systematic review and metaanalyses using data from 14 cohort studies and 52 randomized controlled trials focused on adults, as well as nine controlled trials and one cohort study focused on children. Nancy Aburto, et al., “Effect of lower sodium intake on health: systematic review and meta-analyses,” BMJ, April 2013. Based on their analyses, the authors evidently concluded that decreased sodium intake in both children and adults reduces blood pressure, while decreased intake in adults is also associated with a lower risk of stroke and fatal cardiovascular disease, with “no adverse effect on blood lipids, catecholamine levels, or renal function.”

The third systematic review and meta-analyses examined the “effect of increased potassium intake on cardiovascular risk factors and disease,” using data from 22 randomized controlled trials and 11 cohort studies. Nancy Aburto, et al., “Effect of increased potassium intake on cardiovascular risk factors and disease: systematic review and meta-analyses,” BMJ, April 2013. The results apparently showed that increased potassium intake not only “reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension” but is also associated “with a 24% lower risk of stroke,” thus suggesting that “increased potassium intake is potentially beneficial to most people without impaired renal handling of potassium for the prevention and control of elevated blood pressure and stroke.”

“The World Health Organization… recommends to reduce dietary salt intake to less than 5 g (about one teaspoon) per person per day and set a global goal of 30% relative reduction in mean adult population intake of salt by 2025,” notes BMJ Case Reports. “Much evidence shows that reducing salt intake lowers blood pressure and thereby reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease. Less is known about the potential benefits of increasing potassium intake, but lower potassium consumption has been linked with elevated blood pressure.”