The present study set out to assess the feasibility of long-term moderate dietary sodium restriction in patients with mild hypertension in general practice. After screening and a run-in phase of 6-8 weeks, a total of 77 previously undiagnosed mildly hypertensive patients were identified. Half of them were randomized to receive a few simple dietary instructions from their general practitioners in order to reduce salt usage; the others were randomized to receive no advice. The patients were followed up for 12 months with quarterly visits. A total of 56 patients (72.7%) completed the study, 26 on a low-sodium diet (LD) and 30 on their usual diet (UD). At each visit in the diet phase, patients provided 24h urine, which was analysed for volume and sodium concentration in order to assess their sodium intake. Blood pressure, heart the rate and body weight were recorded. The mean urinary sodium excretion for all diet phase visits overlapped in the two groups (177.0 +/- 32.9 vs. 169.3 +/- 49.4 mEq/24h respectively in the LD and UD groups). Nevertheless the mean systolic and diastolic blood pressures for all diet phase visits were significantly lower in the LD than in UD group (144.2 +/- 11.1/91.6 +/- 6.4 and 148.0 +/- 13.7/95.6 +/- 4.7 mmHg respectively, P less than 0.01). Our data suggest that it is not feasible at present to reduce sodium intake in mild hypertensives with simple and inexpensive dietary instructions, the only ones suitable for widespread application in general practice.