“Salt is a principal cause of high blood pressure and it makes our endothelial cells, the cells that line our entire circulatory system, less functional, causing thicker, harder arteries, less functional kidneys and less functional heart muscle cells,”
But he adds “the amount of scientific evidence around the idea that lowering salt intake improves outcomes for patients with heart disease is pretty slim. We want to see the linkage that tells us what we’re doing is actually best.”
The study is set up to be as life-like as possible. Heart failure patients volunteer for the clinical study. Some are asked to prepare their own meals (usually about 2,400 mg of salt per day) for over a year. Others are asked to use a much lower amount; about 1,500 mg per day.
“We’re not preparing their meals. But we did craft some menus to help them make good choices,” says Ezekowitz.
With research sites in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Colombia and Chile, Ezekowitz’s study has grown into the largest clinical trial ever conducted on the impact of salt on heart patients.“Our findings will influence cardiac care around the world.”
Seed funding for this study, and hundreds of others just like it, came via the University Hospital Foundation’s Medical Research Competition (MRC). Ezekowitz and his team received $30,000 to conduct a small clinical trial of 30 patients.
He leveraged that data to acquire more funding, which in turn led to a $700,000 research grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. From an initial investment point of view, that’s a return of just over 2200 per cent.