Setting the Stage for Controlling Hypertension: New Paper Outlines Study Elements Needed to Address Dietary Contributors to Risk

Washington D.C. — Controlling chronic hypertension in the U.S. populace remains a challenge but carefully designing new studies to find the optimal dietary sodium-to-potassium ratio could improve how we address elevated blood pressure.

Currently, sodium is overconsumed while potassium intakes are lower than recommended, thus requiring attention to the ratio of the two in future research designs. This was called out as a critical research need in the 2019 Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

According to a new perspectives paper, which appears in the journal Advances in Nutrition, a robust human intervention trial with careful attention to study population, duration, diets and blood pressure measures will advance the knowledge needed to address high blood pressure by improving the understanding of the optimal dietary sodium-to-potassium ratio.

The authors provide a set of recommendations for the design and conduct of a dietary sodium and potassium-ratio intervention study. According to the paper, if the optimal sodium to potassium ratio “requires potassium supplementation, study findings could help support a potassium fortification or substitution program that would lower sodium and raise potassium in the food supply …” Once research is completed, “it needs to be translated into practical and applied implications in food choices and the overall diet.”

According to lead author Dr. David Baer with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, the article “focuses on considerations in designing a research study to determine the optimal level of dietary sodium and potassium to improve blood pressure in the U.S. population.”

A recent WHO review found that over 700 million people have untreated hypertension worldwide, indicating the importance of advancing science in this public health area.

The paper was supported by the Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences (IAFNS). IAFNS is committed to leading positive change across the food and beverage ecosystem. The research above was supported by IAFNS Sodium Committee. IAFNS is a 501(c)(3) science-focused nonprofit uniquely positioned to mobilize government, industry, and academia to drive, fund and lead actionable research.