1. To test the hypothesis that NaCl increases blood pressure, while NaHCO3 does not, we measured the effect of an NaHCO3-containing mineral water on blood pressure in stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive (SHR-SP) and Wistar–Kyoto (WKY) rats. We compared mineral water with equimolar amounts of NaCl and demineralized drinking water in six groups of 20 rats each over 24 weeks.

2. NaCl consistently increased blood pressure in both SHR-SP and WKY compared with demineralized water, while mineral water did not.

3. We studied the possible role of sodium-regulating hormones. Sodium, potassium-dependent adenosine triphosphatase activity was decreased by NaCl and by age, but not by mineral water. The concentration of atrial natriuretic peptide was greater in SHR-SP, but was not influenced by the two regimens. Components of the renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system and 18-hydroxy-deoxycorticosterone tended to decrease with NaCl, but not with mineral water.

4. Plasma pH values in the six groups of rats were not different; however, SHR-SP had consistently lower Pco2 and HCO3 values and higher anion gap values than WKY rats. These values were not influence by the two regimens.

5. NaCl elevates blood pressure in SHR-SP while NaHCO3 does not. The changes in hormones regulating sodium homoeostasis suggest that NaCl induces volume expansion while NaHCO3 does not. The effect may be related to influences on renal sodium reabsorption by chloride and bicarbonate. The possible role of increased proton excretory activity in SHR-SP remains to be determined.

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