When epidemiologists and cardiologists give advice about hypertension, they often recommend that we cut back on salt (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Oct. 11, 2016). Strict salt restriction remains somewhat controversial, however (Lancet, July 30, 2016). Most people find it hard to lower their sodium intake to levels recommended by the American Heart Association. Perhaps it’s time to focus more attention on increasing potassium intake by using a potassium salt substitute. That’s the conclusion of two studies from different parts of the world.
Could a Salt Substitute Lower Sodium Intake?
In the US, scientists used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to model sodium intake (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online March 23, 2021). If people replaced table salt with a potassium chloride salt substitute, they could lower their sodium intake to around 3,000 mg a day. Using a salt substitute did not lead to excessive potassium intake.
Does a Potassium Salt Substitute Lower Blood Pressure?
Of course, models showing a lower sodium intake are one thing. Evidence that using potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride actually lowers blood pressure is another.
To this point, researchers recruited 500 people in rural India with high blood pressure. They provided the volunteers with either ordinary salt (sodium chloride) or potassium chloride salt substitute for home use (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online March 30, 2021). After three months, those using the salt substitute had lowered their systolic blood pressure by 4.6 points.
Participants said the substitute tasted like salt. Consequently, this appears to be a low-cost and effective intervention.
Some people can’t tolerate the taste of potassium chloride however, so this kind of salt substitution won’t work for everyone. Those taking ACE inhibitors like lisinopril or ARBs such as losartan for hypertension must avoid extra potassium. This might come from salt substitutes or other concentrated sources such as supplements.
Fruits and vegetables are great sources of potassium. That might help explain why they are so good for our health. Here is a list of super sources that might help you increase your potassium intake whether or not you like the taste of a potassium salt substitute. You may also wish to consult our eGuide to Blood Pressure Solutions with suggestions for lifestyle approaches as well as drugs to control hypertension.