October 2, 2008

Killer Salt: Another Look

A high-salt diet remains a sure way to develop the high blood pressure that increases the likelihood of heart disease and stroke. Genes don't...
A British study recently tested the effect of table salt on people with variations in the gene for angiotensinogen. Regardless of genetics, people who consumed more salt had higher blood pressure.

Over the last several years, there have been claims that the effect of salt (sodium chloride) on blood pressure has been overstated and that only people with particular genetic sensitivities are susceptible to major elevation of blood pressure. Many of these proponents are food industry employees.

Salt consumption raised blood pressure, no matter what angiotensinogen gene the participants had.

A British study of over 10,000 European men and women tested the relation between salt consumption, blood pressure and variation in the gene for angiotensinogen production. Angiotensinogen is a compound which is transformed to angiotensin in the body. One effect of angiotensin is to raise blood pressure by constricting arteries. Some variants of the angiotensinogen gene make people naturally susceptible to hypertension.

The researchers found that salt consumption raised blood pressure, no matter what angiotensinogen gene the participants had. All people who ate more salt had higher blood pressure. The results were reported in the August 2008 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The angiotensinogen gene is one of several genes with variants that can predispose people to high blood pressure, but overall these genes are uncommon. While this study only tested one of these genes, its message is straightforward: Increased salt consumption increases blood pressure.

Left untreated, high blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Will salting your food give you high blood pressure? That depends on many factors. What is known is that the more salt you consume, the higher your blood pressure will be. Something to think about the next time you reach for the salt shaker.
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