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Salt and sugar: their effects on blood pressure

Abstract

Both dietary salt and sugar are related to blood pressure (BP). The evidence for salt is much stronger, and various types of studies have consistently shown that salt is a major cause of raised BP, and a reduction from the current intake of ≈9–12 g/day in most countries of the world to the recommended level of 5–6 g/day lowers BP in both hypertensive and normotensive individuals, in men and women, in all age groups and in all ethnic groups. Countries such as Finland and the UK that have successfully reduced salt intake have demonstrated a reduction in population BP and cardiovascular mortality, with major cost savings to the health service. The mechanisms whereby salt raises BP are not fully understood. The traditional concepts focus on the tendency for an increase in extracellular fluid volume. Increasing evidence suggests that small increases in plasma sodium may play an important role. There are several other factors that also increase BP, one of which is added sugars. The current high intake of added sugars increases obesity which, in turn, raises BP. Recent studies also suggest that added sugars, particularly those in soft drinks, may have a direct effect on BP. However, the relationship between soft drink consumption and BP could be, at least partially, mediated by the effect of salt intake on increasing soft drink consumption. Actions to reduce salt and sugar intake across the whole population will have major beneficial effects on health along with major cost savings.

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Conflict of interest

FJH is a member of Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) and World Action on Salt and Health (WASH). Both CASH and WASH are non-profit charitable organisations, and FJH does not receive any financial support from CASH or WASH. GAM is the chairman of the Blood Pressure UK (BPUK), chairman of CASH, WASH and Action on Sugar. BPUK, CASH, WASH and Action on Sugar are non-profit charitable organisations. GAM does not receive any financial support from any of these organisations.

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He, F.J., MacGregor, G.A. Salt and sugar: their effects on blood pressure. Pflugers Arch - Eur J Physiol 467, 577–586 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00424-014-1677-x

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Keywords

  • Salt intake
  • Added sugar consumption
  • Blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular risk