Graudal NA, Hubeck-Graudal T, Jurgens G Effects of low sodium diet versus high sodium diet on blood pressure, renin, aldosterone, catecholamines, cholesterol, and triglyceride. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2020 Dec 12;12:CD004022. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004022.pub5.

BACKGROUND: Recent cohort studies show that salt intake below 6 g is associated with increased mortality. These findings have not changed public recommendations to lower salt intake below 6 g, which are based on assumed blood pressure (BP) effects and no side-effects.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the effects of sodium reduction on BP, and on potential side-effects (hormones and lipids) SEARCH METHODS: The Cochrane Hypertension Information Specialist searched the following databases for randomized controlled trials up to April 2018 and a top-up search in March 2020: the Cochrane Hypertension Specialised Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE (from 1946), Embase (from 1974), the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, and We also contacted authors of relevant papers regarding further published and unpublished work. The searches had no language restrictions. The top-up search articles are recorded under "awaiting assessment."

SELECTION CRITERIA: Studies randomizing persons to low-sodium and high-sodium diets were included if they evaluated at least one of the outcome parameters (BP, renin, aldosterone, noradrenalin, adrenalin, cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein and triglyceride,.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently collected data, which were analysed with Review Manager 5.3. Certainty of evidence was assessed using GRADE.

MAIN RESULTS: Since the first review in 2003 the number of included references has increased from 96 to 195 (174 were in white participants). As a previous study found different BP outcomes in black and white study populations, we stratified the BP outcomes by race. The effect of sodium reduction (from 203 to 65 mmol/day) on BP in white participants was as follows: Normal blood pressure: SBP: mean difference (MD) -1.14 mmHg (95% confidence interval (CI): -1.65 to -0.63), 5982 participants, 95 trials; DBP: MD + 0.01 mmHg (95% CI: -0.37 to 0.39), 6276 participants, 96 trials. Hypertension: SBP: MD -5.71 mmHg (95% CI: -6.67 to -4.74), 3998 participants,88 trials; DBP: MD -2.87 mmHg (95% CI: -3.41 to -2.32), 4032 participants, 89 trials (all high-quality evidence). The largest bias contrast across studies was recorded for the detection bias element. A comparison of detection bias low-risk studies versus high/unclear risk studies showed no differences. The effect of sodium reduction (from 195 to 66 mmol/day) on BP in black participants was as follows: Normal blood pressure: SBP: mean difference (MD) -4.02 mmHg (95% CI:-7.37 to -0.68); DBP: MD -2.01 mmHg (95% CI:-4.37, 0.35), 253 participants, 7 trials. Hypertension: SBP: MD -6.64 mmHg (95% CI:-9.00, -4.27); DBP: MD -2.91 mmHg (95% CI:-4.52, -1.30), 398 participants, 8 trials (low-quality evidence). The effect of sodium reduction (from 217 to 103 mmol/day) on BP in Asian participants was as follows: Normal blood pressure: SBP: mean difference (MD) -1.50 mmHg (95% CI: -3.09, 0.10); DBP: MD -1.06 mmHg (95% CI:-2.53 to 0.41), 950 participants, 5 trials. Hypertension: SBP: MD -7.75 mmHg (95% CI:-11.44, -4.07); DBP: MD -2.68 mmHg (95% CI: -4.21 to -1.15), 254 participants, 8 trials (moderate-low-quality evidence).   During sodium reduction renin increased 1.56 ng/mL/hour (95%CI:1.39, 1.73) in 2904 participants (82 trials); aldosterone increased 104 pg/mL (95%CI:88.4,119.7) in 2506 participants (66 trials); noradrenalin increased 62.3 pg/mL: (95%CI: 41.9, 82.8) in 878 participants (35 trials); adrenalin increased 7.55 pg/mL (95%CI: 0.85, 14.26) in 331 participants (15 trials); cholesterol increased 5.19 mg/dL (95%CI:2.1, 8.3) in 917 participants (27 trials); triglyceride increased 7.10 mg/dL (95%CI: 3.1,11.1) in 712 participants (20 trials); LDL tended to increase 2.46 mg/dl (95%CI: -1, 5.9) in 696 participants (18 trials); HDL was unchanged -0.3 mg/dl (95%CI: -1.66,1.05) in 738 participants (20 trials) (All high-quality evidence except the evidence for adrenalin).

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: In white participants, sodium reduction in accordance with the public recommendations resulted in mean arterial pressure (MAP) decrease of about 0.4 mmHg in participants with normal blood pressure and a MAP decrease of about 4 mmHg in participants with hypertension. Weak evidence indicated that these effects may be a little greater in black and Asian participants. The effects of sodium reduction on potential side effects (hormones and lipids) were more consistent than the effect on BP, especially in people with normal BP.

Ratings by Clinicians (at least 3 per Specialty)
Specialty Score
Family Medicine (FM)/General Practice (GP)
General Internal Medicine-Primary Care(US)
Public Health
Internal Medicine
Comments from MORE raters

Family Medicine (FM)/General Practice (GP) rater

Supports my inclination to leave alone the sodium intake of patients who are normotensive, and low sodium may be useful in hypertensives. But I'm still not sure it's newsworthy.

General Internal Medicine-Primary Care(US) rater

Well done MA that does not support that sodium reduction may have a net beneficial effect in a population of white people with normal BP. In white people with elevated BP, sodium reduction decreases BP by about 3.5%, indicating that sodium reduction may be used as a supplementary treatment for hypertension. In Asian and black people, the effect of sodium reduction was a little larger than in white people but requires further studies.

Public Health rater

This is an excellent review that sums up a wealth of evidence that addresses a very important and easy life style modification to reduce cardiovascular risk.

Public Health rater

This Cochrane review of randomised trials of low vs standard sodium diets showed a modest effect on BP in hypertensive but a more impressive adverse effect (increase) in neurohormones renin, angiotensin, adrenaline and lipids. This may account for the mortality penalty observed in patients on low sodium diets. This information was definitely new to me.