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Type 2 Diabetes and Sodium

author image Janet Renee, MS, RD
Janet Renee is a clinical dietitian with a special interest in weight management, sports dietetics, medical nutrition therapy and diet trends. She earned her Master of Science in nutrition from the University of Chicago and has contributed to health and wellness magazines, including Prevention, Self, Shape and Cooking Light.
Type 2 Diabetes and Sodium
A salt shaker and stethoscope. Photo Credit Iamthatiam/iStock/Getty Images

It's important for everyone to control their sodium intakes, but especially if you have Type 2 diabetes. Limiting the sodium in your diet is key when it comes to helping to prevent or manage high blood pressure, which commonly occurs in individuals with Type 2 diabetes. Data indicates that those with Type 2 diabetes are more sensitive to the effects of dietary sodium than the general population, making it especially critical for you to monitor how much sodium you consume.

Type 2 Diabetes and Salt Sensitivity

Table salt is approximately 40 percent sodium with 1 teaspoon of salt equaling 2,400 milligrams of sodium. Most patients with diabetes are salt sensitive, according to a review published in the "Journal of Human Hypertension" March 2002 issue. Because sodium plays a central role in regulating blood pressure, individuals with salt sensitivity are more vulnerable to the effects of dietary sodium on their blood pressures. Type 2 diabetics show enhanced vascular reactivity in response to salt, according to the review. This refers to exaggerated physiological changes in blood pressure in response to the amount of salt in your diet.

Greater Risk of Hypertension

Because when you have Type 2 diabetes, your cardiovascular system is already sensitive to the effects of sodium, eating a high-salt diet places you at greater risk of hypertension than those without the condition. Sodium, along with potassium, regulates fluid balance in your body. When you consume too much sodium, it causes your body to retain excess fluid, which increases the pressure against your arteries and places added burden on your heart. Over time, continued pressure against your artery walls causes damage, leading to heart disease.

Double Whammy

In a study published in the December 2010 edition of the journal "Diabetic Medicine," researchers in Australia examined the sodium and potassium intake habits of study participants with Type 2 diabetes. They found that 86 to 97 percent of participants with Type 2 diabetes ate a diet low in potassium and high in salt. Potassium helps the body excrete excess water, so this represents a double whammy. The researchers concluded that this combination of high salt and low potassium may contribute to excess fluid and elevated blood pressure in those with Type 2 diabetes.

Recommended Salt Intake for Type 2 Diabetics

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 recommends that healthy individuals limit their sodium intakes to less than 2,300 milligrams per day. If you have Type 2 diabetes, it's recommended that you aim for 1,500 milligrams or less per day. Talk to your healthcare provider about controlling the amount of sodium in your diet. Processed foods and canned foods are often high in sodium, so replacing them with fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole-grain foods and low-sodium alternatives is a good place to start.

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