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Back to Symposium 2007

Blood Pressure and the Metabolic Syndrome

Susan Barr, PhD, RD

Professor of Nutrition, University of British Columbia

Elevated blood pressure is one of the components of the metabolic syndrome, and the relationship between sodium and blood pressure is well established. It has been suggested that a reduction in sodium intake of ~1.8 grams/day would decrease hypertension prevalence in Canada by over 30% and lead to direct cost savings of over $430 million/year.1

The purpose of this presentation was to put this information into context. To meet this objective, Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for sodium were reviewed and current data on Canadians’ sodium intakes2 and food sources of sodium were presented. Achieving a major reduction in sodium intake presents many challenges and will likely take many years to accomplish.

Other dietary approaches have also been shown to be effective in hypertension management.3 Most notably, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet—rich in fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, and with reduced saturated and total fat—reduces blood pressure in both hypertensive and normotensive individuals.4,5 The 2007 Canada’s Food Guide is similar in many respects to the DASH diet and, if adopted on a widespread basis, could contribute to the prevention and management of elevated blood pressure as well as to other aspects of the metabolic syndrome.


  1. Joffres MR, Campbell NR, Manns B, Tu K. Estimate of the benefits of a population-based reduction in dietary sodium additives on hypertension and its related health care costs in Canada. Can J Cardiol 2007;23(6):437-43.
  2. Garraguet D. Sodium consumption at all ages. Health Reports 2007;18(2):47-52. Statistics Canada, Catalogue 82-003.
  3. Appel LJ, Brands MW, Daniels ST, et al. Dietary approaches to prevent and treat hypertension: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Hypertension 2006;47;296-308.
  4. Sacks FM, Svetkey LP, Vollmer WM, et al. Effects on blood pressure of reduced dietary sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. DASH-Sodium Collaborative Research Group. N Engl J Med 2001;344(1):3-10.

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