JHMI Office of Communications and Public Affairs

January 3, 2001
PHONE: (410) 955-1534
E-MAIL: kblum@jhmi.edu

Healthy Diet, Less Salt Dramatically Reduces Blood Pressure

--Hopkins Investigator Available to Discuss Results of DASH-Sodium Study–

Together, a healthier diet and less salt dramatically lower blood pressure in people with and without high blood pressure, according to a nationwide study at Johns Hopkins and four other academic medical centers.

Lawrence J. Appel, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins and one of the principal investigators of the study, calls this "the most definitive study on salt and its effects on blood pressure that’s ever been done."

Results of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension-Sodium (DASH-Sodium) trial are published in the Jan. 4 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. This clinical trial tested the effects of three salt levels on blood pressure in two diets (the DASH diet and a typical American diet). The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and also is reduced in fat. The three salt levels were 3,400 mg of sodium per day (close to average intake in the United States), 2,400 mg per day (the recommended upper limit) and 1,500 mg per day.

The study of 412 people found that combining the DASH diet with the lowest level of salt was most effective in reducing blood pressure and had more of an influence than either effort alone. Together, they reduced systolic blood pressure (the upper number) by 8.9 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) by 4.5 mmHg. These reductions are similar to the effects of a single blood pressure medication.

"Prior to our study, some experts had questioned whether it was worthwhile for people without high blood pressure to cut back on their salt intake," Appel says. "This study settles this controversy and further emphasizes the powerful effects of dietary change on blood pressure. To cut back on their salt intake, people should not add salt to their food. More importantly, they should be very careful about the foods they buy. Some foods are just awful, providing more than 2,000 mg of sodium in a single serving. In the end, we will need the cooperation of food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in prepared foods."

Initial results were presented May 17, 2000, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hypertension. This study builds on findings from the DASH study, published three years ago in the Journal, which showed that the DASH diet by itself substantially and quickly lowered blood pressure. That study did not look at the impact of salt.


To interview Appel or Edgar R. "Pete" Miller III, M.D., Ph.D. (another study investigator from Hopkins), please contact me at 410-955-1534 or kblum@jhmi.edu. 

For more information on the DASH diet or sample menus, visit the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Web site at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash.


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