Consuming higher amounts of sodium had no effect on blood pressure in adolescent girls but consuming more potassium was linked to lower blood pressure at the end of adolescence in new research published in JAMA Pediatrics.

The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming <2,300mg of sodium per day for health individuals ages 2–50. However, the association between dietary sodium and blood pressure in children and adolescents has not been thoroughly assessed in research. This prospective study sought to investigate the long-term effects of dietary sodium and potassium on blood pressure at the end of adolescence using data from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Growth and Health Study. The 2,185 black and white girls aged 9–10 in the study were followed for up to 10 years, with the participants reporting food consumption along with an annual blood pressure measurement.

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The researchers found no evidence that higher sodium intake (3,000 to <4,000mg per day and ≥4,00mg per day vs. <2,500mg per day) had an adverse effect on adolescent blood pressure. Girls consuming ≥3,500mg per day overall had lower diastolic blood pressure compared to girls consuming <2,500mg per day. For potassium, girls consuming ≥2,400mg per day (the highest category) had lower late-adolescent systolic and diastolic blood pressure vs. those who consumed less potassium. Girls who reported consuming the most dairy, fruits, vegetables, and fiber also consumed greater amounts of sodium and potassium.

The authors stress that methods need to be developed for estimating salt sensitivity for use in future research on high-risk populations, along with greater awareness of the potential health risks associated with low dietary potassium intake among children and adolescents in the United States.

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