A high salt meal does not impair cerebrovascular reactivity in healthy young adults

Physiol Rep. 2020 Oct;8(19):e14585. doi: 10.14814/phy2.14585.


A high sodium (Na+ ) meal impairs peripheral vascular function. In rodents, chronic high dietary Na+ impairs cerebral vascular function, and in humans, habitual high dietary Na+ is associated with increased stroke risk. However, the effects of acute high dietary Na+ on the cerebral vasculature in humans are unknown. The purpose of this study was to determine if acute high dietary Na+ impairs cerebrovascular reactivity in healthy adults. Thirty-seven participants (20F/17M; 25 ± 5 years; blood pressure [BP]: 107 ± 9/61 ± 6 mm Hg) participated in this randomized, cross-over study. Participants were given a low Na+ meal (LSM; 138 mg Na+ ) and a high Na+ meal (HSM; 1,495 mg Na+ ) separated by ≥ one week. Serum Na+ , beat-to-beat BP, middle cerebral artery velocity (transcranial Doppler), and end-tidal carbon dioxide (PET CO2 ) were measured pre- (baseline) and 60 min post-prandial. Cerebrovascular reactivity was assessed by determining the percent change in middle cerebral artery velocity to hypercapnia (via 8% CO2 , 21% oxygen, balance nitrogen) and hypocapnia (via mild hyperventilation). Peripheral vascular function was measured using brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (FMD). Changes in serum Na+ were greater following the HSM (HSM: Δ1.6 ± 1.2 mmol/L vs. LSM: Δ0.7 ± 1.2 mmol/L, p < .01). Cerebrovascular reactivity to hypercapnia (meal effect: p = .41) and to hypocapnia (meal effect: p = .65) were not affected by the HSM. Contrary with previous findings, FMD was not reduced following the HSM (meal effect: p = .74). These data suggest that a single high Na+ meal does not acutely impair cerebrovascular reactivity, and suggests that despite prior findings, a single high Na+ meal does not impair peripheral vascular function in healthy adults.

Keywords: cerebrovascular reactivity; dietary sodium; flow mediated dilation; reactive oxygen species; transcranial Doppler ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blood Flow Velocity / drug effects
  • Brachial Artery / drug effects
  • Carbon Dioxide / blood
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / drug effects*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypercapnia / physiopathology
  • Hypocapnia / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Cerebral Artery / physiology
  • Middle Cerebral Artery / physiopathology*
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary / pharmacology*
  • Young Adult


  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary
  • Carbon Dioxide