1. Seventy-seven patients with essential hypertension and 28 normotensive subjects were studied on their normal diet (ND), on the fifth day of a high sodium diet (HS) (350 mmol/day) and on the fifth day of a low sodium diet (LS) (10 mmol/day).
2. With an increase in sodium intake, there was no change in mean blood pressure either in the normotensive subjects (ND, 120/75 ± 2.4/1.7 mmHg—HS, 119/75 ± 2.7/1.7 mmHg) or in the hypertensive subjects (ND, 173/110 ± 2.5/1.3 mmHg—HS, 174/110 ± 2.5/1.4 mmHg).
3. On the fifth day of the low sodium diet there was no change in mean blood pressure in the normotensive subjects (ND, 120/75 ± 2.5/1.7 mmHg—LS, 116/76 ± 2.7/2.0 mmHg). In contrast, the hypertensive group on the fifth day of the low salt diet had a significant fall in supine mean blood pressure compared with those on the normal diet (ND, 173/110 ± 2.5/1.3—LS, 155/102 ± 2.2/1.3 mmHg; P < 0.001). The fall in mean blood pressure was 10.8 ± 1.1 mmHg (8.4%).
4. There was a significant correlation between the fall in blood pressure with the low sodium diet and the level of blood pressure on the normal diet (r = 0.52; P < 0.001) and a significant inverse correlation with the fall in blood pressure on the low sodium diet and the rise in plasma renin activity from the normal to low sodium diet (r = −0.36; P < 0.001).
5. Nineteen patients with mild to moderate essential hypertension were studied in a double-blind randomized crossover study of moderate dietary sodium restriction using slow sodium and placebo for 1 month each. On the fourth week of placebo (mean 24 h UNa 86 ± 9 mmol), mean supine blood pressure was 7.1 mmHg lower (6.1%), P < 0.001 compared with the fourth week of slow sodium (mean 24 h UNa 162 ± 9 mmol).
6. Moderate dietary sodium restriction over 1 month caused a fall in blood pressure in patients with essential hypertension. A more severe reduction in sodium intake for a shorter period of time lowered blood pressure in hypertensive but not normotensive subjects. Part of the mechanism of this blood pressure reduction with sodium restriction appeared to be related to the severity of the hypertension and to suppression of the renin-angiotensin system.