A new review of studies has found that reducing the amount of salt in diabetics` daily diet is key to warding off serious threats to their health.
In the Cochrane review, the authors evaluated 13 studies with 254 adults who had either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
For an average duration of one week, participants were restricted to large reduction in their daily salt intake to see how the change would affect their blood pressure.
"We were surprised to find so few studies of modest, practical salt reduction in diabetes where patients are at high cardiovascular risk and stand much to gain from interventions that reduce blood pressure," said lead reviewer Rebecca Suckling.
"However, despite this, there was a consistent reduction in blood pressure when salt intake was reduced."
High salt intake is a major cause for increased blood pressure and, in those with diabetes, elevated blood pressure can lead to more serious health problems, including stroke, heart attack and diabetic kidney disease.
In the Cochrane review, the participants` average salt intake was restricted by 11.9 grams a day for those with type 1 diabetes and by 7.3 grams a day for those with type 2.
The reviewers wrote that reducing salt intake by 8.5 grams a day could lower patients` blood pressure by 7/3 mmHg. This was true for patients with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
The reviewers noted that this reduction in blood pressure is similar to that found from taking blood pressure medication.
Suckling acknowledged that studies in the review only lasted for a week and that the type of salt restriction probably would not be manageable for longer periods.
However, Suckling said, the review also found that in studies greater than two weeks, where salt was reduced by a more achievable and sustainable amount of 4.5 grams a day, blood pressure was reduced by 6/4 mmHg.
The review appeared in the current issue of The Cochrane Library , a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates research in all aspects of health care.