Sodium is often blamed for being the causative factor in high blood pressure. Some evidence supports this contention, but generally the scientific evidence in support of a high sodium intake causing detrimental blood pressure changes is not consistent. In particular it appears that healthy individuals eating a normal balanced diet do not develop blood pressure changes from high sodium diets unless the intake is excessively high or for prolonged periods
Nutrients Versus Diets
One of the problems faced by nutritionists when attempting to find causative agents for disease is that often the disease takes decades to manifest. This makes it incredibly hard to identify specific causes as often the diets of individuals with that disease contain many foods that could be to blame. However, recently a shift has occurred that has meant that rather than looking at the effects of individual nutrients on health, nutritionists have started looking at the effects of the diet as a whole.
Western Diets are High in Sodium
The shift in focus from individual food to the diet has a whole has resulted in the Western diet coming under scrutiny. Generally the Western diet is consumed by the Western developed nations and is comprised of mainly red meat, processed meat, refined carbohydrates, fat and sugar. In addition the Western diet is also high in sodium. However, while sodium has been blamed for the high incidence of high blood pressure in Western populations, other factors could be to blame.
High Sodium is Low Potassium
The sodium to potassium ratio in most fruits and vegetables is around 1:50. However, in the Western dirt the ration is more like 2:1 in favour of sodium. While high sodium diets may be associated with high blood pressure, it is difficult to apportion blame because diets high in sodium are also diets low in potassium. Numerous studies have presented evidence that indicates that high sodium diets do not cause high blood pressure without a concomitant low potassium intake.
How To Redress The Balance
If you are currently eating Western foods and add table salt to your foods then you almost certainly will have a sodium potassium imbalance. Cutting out the addition of salt to foods is a start, but will do nothing to reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure without addressing the low potassium intake that is likely part of the diet. Fortunately this is easily achieved addition of fruits and vegetables as replacements for the processed and salted foods that typify the diet.
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