Sodium and potassium and the pathogenesis of hypertension

Curr Hypertens Rep. 2013 Apr;15(2):122-30. doi: 10.1007/s11906-013-0331-x.


The evidence relating blood pressure to salt intake in humans originates from population studies and randomized clinical trials of interventions on dietary salt intake. Estimates from meta-analyses of trials in normotensive subjects generally are similar to estimates derived from prospective population studies (+1.7-mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure per 100 mmol increment in 24-hour urinary sodium). This estimate, however, does not translate into an increased risk of incident hypertension in subjects consuming a high-salt diet. The meta-analyses of intervention trials have consistently shown that potassium supplementation is associated with lowering of blood pressure. However, prospective studies relating health outcomes to 24-hour urinary sodium and/or potassium excretion produced inconsistent results. Taken together, available evidence does not support the current recommendations of a generalized and indiscriminate reduction of salt intake at the population level, although the blood-pressure lowering effect of dietary sodium restriction might be of value in hypertensive patients. Potassium supplementation in hypertensive patients or healthy persons is not recommended by the current guidelines, but importance of adhering to healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruits is emphasized.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / etiology*
  • Hypertension / metabolism
  • Potassium, Dietary / metabolism*
  • Potassium, Dietary / pharmacology
  • Sodium, Dietary / adverse effects
  • Sodium, Dietary / metabolism*


  • Potassium, Dietary
  • Sodium, Dietary