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Historical root of hypertension.

Historical roots of hypertension

Blacks in America, and those in Africa with a westernized lifestyle, are about twice as likely as Caucasians to develop high blood pressure. Researchers have hypothesized that the predisposition in westernized blacks may reflect an interaction between a modern high-salt diet and genes that adapted to a historical scarcity of salt. In the April 5 LANCET, Thomas Wilson of Bowling Green (Ohio) State University bolsters the hypothesis by correlating blood pressure differences among West African tribes with historical accounts of salt availability.

"In Senegal and Gambia, where salt was always available, blood pressures are low,' the historian says, pointing to epidemiologic studies on blood pressures in the Mandinka and Serer tribes in those countries. Present-day blood pressures are much higher in the Yoruba, a Nigerian tribe historically situated inland from sources of sea salt, and south of Saharan salt mines. Salt was so scarce in those regions that it was sometimes traded pound-for-pound for gold, and accounts by 19th-century European travelers refer to an "unbelievable' lack of salt.

"Because a large proportion of the population in West Africa have descended from a salt-deprived line,' Wilson says, "the increase in salt consumption in West Africa is a serious public health hazard.'
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Publication:Science News
Date:May 3, 1986
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