UVA Salt Study

May 3, 2013

Doctors have long advised people with high blood pressure to cut back on salt consumption, but a new study from the University of Virginia says that may not be necessary. 

Dr. Robin Felder put 183 people on a salt-free diet and monitored their blood pressure for seven days.  He then gave the same people a week of meals high in salt, and was surprised to find that only one in four responded with an increase in blood pressure.

“Twenty-five percent of individuals are salt sensitive, and about 11% are inverse salt-sensitive, and everybody else sits in the middle," he said.

In other words, for most of us, salt is not a problem, and for 11% , a diet LOW in salt actually produced high blood pressure.  Felder’s team then did a genetic analysis of about a dozen people from the study and found a marker for those who were at risk.

“There was a gene that individuals who are salt sensitive possessed that set them up for being salt sensitive.”

Finally, scientists took  genes from salt sensitive people – the ones who got high blood pressure when they ate salt -- and implanted them in mice. “That’s our next paper, which should come out very shortly – that we actually put the genes into a mouse and  low and behold, we have a salt-sensitive mouse – a hypertensive mouse and a normotensive mouse.”

Felder is now working on educational materials for doctors and hopes to educate parents, so children who are at risk for high blood pressure can be raised on a diet that won’t lead to heart disease and other complications.