Walter Kempner Reports Improvement in Hypertension from Reduction in Sodium Intake

The first proof that reducing sodium intake could benefit some patients with hypertension also came in 1949 when Walter Kempner reported improvement in malignant hypertension associated with kidney disease and heart failure.

The Kempner diet consisted solely of rice and certain fruits that limited sodium intake to less than 350 mg daily and had no fat. It was extremely hard to adhere to for more than a week or two but was preferable to bilateral lumbar sympathectomy, the only other treatment for this lethal disorder.

At about the same time, Walter Kempner achieved some success treating hypertensive patients with a diet consisting mainly of fruit and rice. It became clear that the diet worked because it included so little sodium, and that if sodium were limited to 200 mg. per day or less, the effect would be the same. The lower sodium levels meant that patients retained less water, and thus the blood volume decreased, which in turn reduced the blood pressure

Sodium restriction was advocated after the role of sodium was shown in 1904 and the rice diet of Kempner was popularized in the early 1940s.