The 24-hour dietary intake and blood pressure of 1928 black and 9739 white adults derived from the data sets of the first US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I) of 1971-1974 were analyzed. Contrary to expectation, the absolute and relative intakes of sodium and potassium in blacks were less than those of whites. However, because the difference in potassium was greater than the difference in sodium, blacks did have a significantly higher sodium/potassium ratio than whites. Blacks had significantly higher blood pressure than whites even when adjusted for differences in sodium/potassium ratio. It is concluded that the higher blood pressure and prevalence of hypertension in blacks does not appear to be a function of an absolutely greater dietary sodium intake, but related to a relatively low intake of potassium. It is possible that blacks have a greater sensitivity than whites to the hypertensinogenic effects of sodium which, coupled with the relatively low dietary intake of potassium, accounts for their increased blood pressure.
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