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Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Mar;95(3):572-9. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.018077. Epub 2012 Jan 18.

Habitual dietary sodium intake is inversely associated with coronary flow reserve in middle-aged male twins.

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  • 1Nutrition and Health Sciences Program, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.



Evidence links dietary sodium to hypertension and cardiovascular disease (CVD), but investigation of its influence on cardiovascular function is limited.


We examined the relation between habitual dietary sodium and coronary flow reserve (CFR), which is a measure of overall coronary vasodilator capacity and microvascular function. We hypothesized that increased sodium consumption is associated with lower CFR.


Habitual daily sodium intake for the previous 12 mo was measured in 286 male middle-aged twins (133 monozygotic and dizygotic pairs and 20 unpaired twins) by using the Willett food-frequency questionnaire. CFR was measured by positron emission tomography [N(13)]-ammonia, with quantitation of myocardial blood flow at rest and after adenosine stress. Mixed-effects regression analysis was used to assess the association between dietary sodium and CFR.


An increase in dietary sodium of 1000 mg/d was associated with a 10.0% lower CFR (95% CI: -17.0%, -2.5%) after adjustment for demographic, lifestyle, nutritional, and CVD risk factors (P = 0.01). Across quintiles of sodium consumption, dietary sodium was inversely associated with CFR (P-trend = 0.03), with the top quintile (>1456 mg/d) having a 20% lower CFR than the bottom quintile (<732 mg /d). This association also persisted within pairs: a 1000-mg/d difference in dietary sodium between brothers was associated with a 10.3% difference in CFR after adjustment for potential confounders (P = 0.02).


Habitual dietary sodium is inversely associated with CFR independent of CVD risk factors and shared familial and genetic factors. Our study suggests a potential novel mechanism for the adverse effects of dietary sodium on the cardiovascular system. This trial was registered at as NCT00017836.

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