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Health effects of sodium and potassium in humans

Whelton, Paul K.; He, Jiang

doi: 10.1097/MOL.0000000000000033
NUTRITION AND METABOLISM: Edited by Frank M. Sacks and Lawrence J. Appel

Purpose of review: Review new articles that clarify the health consequences of changes in dietary sodium and potassium and that characterize adherence to sodium and potassium intake guideline recommendations.

Recent findings: New clinical trials meta-analyses provide additional documentation of the blood pressure (BP) lowering effects of Na reduction and K supplement, with no adverse effects of Na reduction on cholesterol in steady-state settings. BP is the leading preventable risk factor for worldwide mortality and disability-adjusted life years. A preponderance of cohort studies has identified a direct relationship between dietary sodium and cardiovascular disease (CVD), specially stroke, and an inverse relationship between dietary potassium and CVD. However, these studies are of insufficient quality to support firm conclusions. Modeling studies of sodium reduction in the general population have identified an enormous potential for health benefits. Current intake of dietary sodium and potassium fails to meet guideline recommendations.

Summary: There is abundant evidence that a reduction in dietary sodium and increase in potassium intake decreases BP, incidence of hypertension, and morbidity and mortality from CVD. However, there is no credible evidence that existing policies have been effective in achieving population goals for dietary sodium and potassium intake in the USA.

Department of Epidemiology, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Correspondence to Paul K. Whelton, MB, MD, MSc, 440 Walnut Street, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA. Tel: +1 504 866 1786; fax: +1 504 861 3730; e-mail:

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