Scientists from the University of New South Wales found that dietary salt substitutes lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from all causes and heart disease.
The beneficial effects of these substitutes are likely to apply to people all around the world.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and high blood pressure is a major risk for early death. A diet high in sodium and low in potassium is known to drive up blood pressure.
Salt substitutes, in which a proportion of sodium chloride (NaCl) is replaced with potassium chloride (KCl), are known to help lower blood pressure.
A recent study found that salt substitutes cut the risk of heart attacks, stroke, and early death, but it was unclear whether these benefits would apply to other parts of the world.
In the current study, the team analyzed the results of 21 relevant international clinical trials involving nearly 30,000 people to see the effects of a salt substitute on blood pressure, heart health, and early death.
Blood pressure, which is measured in mmHg, is made up of two numbers: systolic—the higher number that indicates the force at which the heart pumps blood around the body; and diastolic—the lower number that indicates arterial pressure when the heart is filling with blood.
The proportion of sodium chloride in the salt substitutes varied from 33% to 75%; the proportion of potassium ranged from 25% to 65%.
The team found that salt substitutes lowered blood pressure in all the participants. The overall reduction in systolic blood pressure was 4.61 mm Hg and the overall reduction in diastolic blood pressure was 1.61 mmHg.
Reductions in blood pressure seemed to be consistent, irrespective of geography, age, sex, history of high blood pressure, weight (BMI), baseline blood pressure, and baseline levels of urinary sodium and potassium.
And each 10% lower proportion of sodium chloride in the salt substitute was linked to a 1.53 mmHg greater fall in systolic blood pressure and a 0.95 mmHg greater fall in diastolic blood pressure.
There was no evidence that higher dietary potassium was linked to any health harm.
Another analysis of five of these trials involving more than 24,000 participants showed that salt substitutes lowered the risks of early death from any cause by 11%, from heart disease by 13%, and the risks of heart attack or stroke by 11%.
These findings support the adoption of salt substitutes in clinical practice and public health policy as a strategy to reduce dietary sodium intake, increase dietary potassium intake, lower blood pressure and prevent heart attacks, and strokes.
If you care about nutrition, please read studies about how much vitamin C you need for better immune health, and this diet may improve heart health, even with red meat.
The research was published in the journal Heart and conducted by Xuejun Yin et al.
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