This nutrient in diet is key for blood pressure control

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A revolutionary study highlighted in the Journal of Human Hypertension has unveiled the significant role of potassium in the dietary management of high blood pressure, a condition responsible for over 11 million deaths annually.

The research, led by Dr. Liping Huang of The George Institute, sheds new light on the longstanding debate on the impact of sodium and potassium on blood pressure, emphasizing the potential benefits of increased dietary potassium.

For years, reducing salt intake has been a cornerstone of advice for controlling hypertension.

However, this study brings to the forefront the idea of using potassium-enriched salt substitutes as a dual strategy to decrease sodium intake while simultaneously increasing potassium consumption.

This approach directly tackles the common issue of high sodium and low potassium levels in diets, both of which contribute to heightened blood pressure and increased risks of stroke, heart disease, and early mortality.

The findings stem from the Salt Substitute and Stroke Study (SSaSS), involving 20,995 participants over five years.

This trial demonstrated significant reductions in stroke risk (14%), major cardiovascular events (13%), and premature death (12%) among those who switched from regular salt to a potassium-enriched alternative.

Through rigorous analysis, including urine measurements of sodium and potassium and various data sets on their dose-response relationships with blood pressure, the researchers discovered that the addition of potassium accounted for 61% to 88% of the observed blood pressure-lowering effects.

Dr. Huang’s research underscores the paramount importance of potassium in blood pressure regulation, suggesting that the global prevalence of low potassium intake — with a worldwide average of just 2.25 g/day compared to the recommended 3.5 g/day — represents a critical public health issue.

This is particularly alarming given the doubling of hypertension cases over the past 30 years to 1.3 billion globally.

Potassium, found abundantly in whole foods like legumes, nuts, leafy greens, bananas, kiwis, and dates, is often diminished in processed foods, which instead favor sodium for cost reasons.

This study advocates for a broader adoption of potassium-enriched salt substitutes as a simple, cost-effective measure to significantly improve global health outcomes.

The ease of transitioning to these substitutes, as evidenced by over 90% of SSaSS trial participants continuing their use after five years, highlights their potential as a practical solution to a widespread health crisis.

Prompted by these compelling findings, an international group of experts recently recommended the inclusion of low-sodium potassium-enriched salt in hypertension treatment guidelines.

This endorsement, published in the journal Hypertension, marks a pivotal shift in the approach to managing high blood pressure and underscores the critical role of dietary potassium in cardiovascular health.

If you care about high blood pressure, please read studies that early time-restricted eating could help improve blood pressure, and natural coconut sugar could help reduce blood pressure and artery stiffness.

For more information about blood pressure, please see recent studies about added sugar in your diet linked to higher blood pressure, and results showing vitamin D could improve blood pressure in people with diabetes.

The research findings can be found in the Journal of Human Hypertension.

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