Impact of diet on blood pressure and age-related changes in blood pressure in the US population: analysis of NHANES III

Arch Intern Med. 2001 Feb 26;161(4):589-93. doi: 10.1001/archinte.161.4.589.


Background: The impact of diet on blood pressure and the age-related changes in blood pressure have been difficult to detect within one population. We designed this analysis to study the association of major dietary factors with blood pressure and with age-related changes in blood pressure in a representative sample of the US population.

Methods: Data were obtained on all individuals 20 years or older (n = 17 030) surveyed in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), including demographic data, anthropometric data, dietary intake (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, protein, alcohol, and total energy) based on 24-hour recall, and blood pressure. Multivariate models relating diet to blood pressure were constructed using stepwise regression, best subset regression, and multiple regression.

Results: Systolic blood pressure was positively associated with higher sodium, alcohol, and protein intakes (P<.05) and negatively associated with potassium intake (P =.003). Diastolic blood pressure was negatively associated with potassium and alcohol intakes (P<.001). Pulse pressure was positively associated with sodium, protein, and alcohol intakes (P<.001). A higher intake of calcium (P =.01) was associated with a lower rate of rise in systolic blood pressure with age.

Conclusion: A diet low in sodium, alcohol, and protein is associated with lower systolic blood and pulse pressure. Potassium intake was associated with lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, whereas alcohol intake was associated with lower diastolic blood pressure. In addition, the age-related changes in systolic blood pressure were attenuated by higher calcium and protein intakes. Magnesium was not associated with any changes in blood pressure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Calcium, Dietary / pharmacology
  • Diet*
  • Diet, Sodium-Restricted
  • Ethnicity
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Magnesium / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Potassium, Dietary / pharmacology
  • Regression Analysis
  • United States


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Potassium, Dietary
  • Magnesium