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Will a Potassium Salt Substitute Lower Your Blood Pressure?

Studies show a potassium salt substitute can lower sodium intake and reduce blood pressure. Could you benefit?
Will a Potassium Salt Substitute Lower Your Blood Pressure?
Low sodium diet

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.

Learn More:

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.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
  • Cook NR et al, "Sodium intake and all-cause mortality over 20 years in the trials of hypertension prevention." Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Oct. 11, 2016. DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2016.07.745
  • Mente A et al, "Associations of urinary sodium excretion with cardiovascular events in individuals with and without hypertension: a pooled analysis of data from four studies." Lancet, July 30, 2016. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30467-6
  • Murphy MM et al, "Potassium chloride-based replacers: modeling effects on sodium and potassium intakes of the US population with cross-sectional data from NHANES 2015–2016 and 2009–2010." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online March 23, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqab020
  • Yu J et al, "Effects of a reduced-sodium added-potassium salt substitute on blood pressure in rural Indian hypertensive patients: a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online March 30, 2021. DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/nqab054
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