No previous studies on the association between salt intake and the risk of type 2 diabetes have been reported. The aim of this study was to assess whether high salt intake, measured by 24-h urinary sodium excretion, is an independent risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
We followed prospectively 932 Finnish men and 1,003 women aged 35-64 years with complete data on 24-h urinary sodium and potassium excretion and other study parameters. Hazard ratios for the incidence of type 2 diabetes were estimated for different levels of 24-h urinary sodium and potassium excretion.
During a mean follow-up of 18.1 years, there were 129 incident cases of type 2 diabetes. The multivariate-adjusted (age, sex, study year, body mass index, physical activity, systolic blood pressure, antihypertensive drug treatment, education, smoking and coffee, alcohol, fruit, vegetable, sausage, bread and saturated fat consumption) hazard ratio for diabetes for the highest vs combined lower quartiles of 24-h urinary sodium excretion was 2.05 (95% CI, 1.43-2.96). This positive association persisted in non-obese and obese subjects, in normotensive and hypertensive subjects, as well as in men and women. Potassium excretion was not associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes.
High sodium intake predicted the risk of type 2 diabetes, independently of other risk factors including physical inactivity, obesity and hypertension. These results provide direct evidence of the harmful effects of high salt intake in the adult population, although the confounding effect of other dietary factors cannot be fully excluded.