Broadly, our research group seeks to understand the role of nutrition in cardiovascular disease.  Cardiovascular diseases account for more deaths in the U.S. than any other chronic disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) has identified 7 health metrics important to achieving ideal “cardiovascular health” and a healthy dietary pattern is among those. Specifically, the AHA lists a higher sodium intake and lower potassium intake as dietary risk factors for CVD. In particular, our interest lies in studying the effect of dietary sodium and potassium intake on vascular function.

Research has shown that a diet high in sodium and low in potassium increases an individuals’ risk for hypertension. Additionally, research has shown that high dietary sodium can cause vascular dysfunction independent of changes in blood pressure suggesting that damage to the endothelium precedes changes in blood pressure. This damage can lead to atherosclerosis. While potassium’s blood pressure lowering effect is known, it is unclear what role potassium may play on the vasculature. Therefore, we are examining the interaction between these two nutrients.


Shannon Lennon

Associate Professor

Liza Walker

Research Coordinator

Alexis Mbakwe

Research Technician

Katarina Smiljanec

Doctoral Student

Rachel Dye

Masters Student


Vascular Effects of Dietary Potassium in Humans
We utilize a controlled dietary approach to study the effect of altering sodium and potassium intake on vascular function in healthy, salt-resistant adults.  We use brachial artery flow-mediated dilation to assess conduit artery function and cutaneous vasodilation in response to local heating to assess microvascular function.

Vascular Effects of Dietary Salt in Humans with Salt-Resistant BP
In collaboration with Drs. Bill Farquhar and Dave Edwards, we are exploring the effects of dietary salt on vascular function. Our hypothesis is that excess dietary salt adversely affects vascular function, independent of blood pressure.

The Role of Antioxidants on Attenuating the Acute Effects of a Salty Meal

We are investigating whether an antioxidant cocktail can acutely attenuate the effects of a high salt meal on vascular function. We use brachial artery flow-mediated dilation to assess conduit artery function, carotid-to-femoral pulse wave velocity to assess stiffness, and the technique of passive leg movement (PLM) to assess the contribution of nitric oxide to leg blood flow in the femoral artery.

Vegetarian Diets and Vascular Function

The goal of this study is to determine whether a vegetarian diet (of at least 5 years) results in better vascular function compared to a diet containing red meat (consume at least 2 servings per week).

Recent Publications

Link to Current Publication List

  1. Guers J.J., R.D. Prisby, D.G. Edwards, and Lennon-Edwards. 15 days of parathyroid hormone administration attenuates endothelial dysfunction in old rats. J Appl Physiol. Nov 4, 2016, [Epub] (Corresponding author)
  2. Brian MS, M. Dalpaiz, E.L. Matthews, Lennon-Edwards, D.G. Edwards, and W.B. Farquhar. Dietary Sodium and Nocturnal Blood Pressure Dipping in Normotensive Men and Women. J Hum Hypertens. Aug 2016 [epub].
  3. Matthews E., M. Brian, M. Ramick, Lennon-Edwards, D. Edwards, and W. Farquhar. High Dietary Sodium Reduces Brachial Artery Flow Mediated Dilation in Humans with Salt Sensitive and Salt Resistant Blood Pressure.  J Appl Physiol, June2015;118(12).
  4. Lennon-Edwards S., T. Schellhardt, and J. M. Kuczmarski. Antioxidant defense is increased in aged hearts following omega-3 supplementation in the absence of changes in inflammation. Physiol Res. 2015 11;64(3):433-8. (Corresponding author)
  5. Kirkman D.L., Lennon-Edwards, and D.G. Edwards. Patient Education. The importance of exercise for chronic kidney disease patients.  J Ren Nutr. 2014 Nov;24(6):e51-3.
  6. Kuczmarski J.M., C.R. Martens, J. Kim, L. Lennon-Edwards, and D.G. Edwards. Cardiac function is preserved following 4 weeks of voluntary wheel running in a rodent model of chronic kidney disease.  J Apply Physiol 2014 Sept 1;117(5):482-91.
  7. Kirkman D.L., D.G. Edwards, and Lennon-Edwards. Exercise as an adjunct therapy in chronic kidney disease. Renal Nutrition Forum. 2014;33(4)1-8. (Corresponding author)
  8. Lennon-Edwards S., M. Ramick, E.L. Matthews, M. Brian, W.B. Farquhar, and D.G. Edwards. Salt loading has a more deleterious effect on flow-mediated dilation in salt-resistant men than women. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2014 Sept;24(9):990-5. (Corresponding author)
  9. Martens C.R., J.M. Kuczmarski, J. Kim, J.J. Guers, M.B. Harris, Lennon-Edwards, and D.G. Edwards. Voluntary wheel running augments aortic L-arginine transport and endothelial function in rats with chronic kidney disease.  Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 2014 Aug 15;307(4)F418-26.
  10. Lennon-Edwards S., B.R. Allman, T.A. Schellhardt, C.R. Ferreria, W.B. Farquhar, and D.G. Edwards. Lower potassium intake is associated with increased wave reflection in young healthy adults. Nutr J. 2014 Apr 28;13(1)39. (Corresponding author)
  11. Martens C.R., J.M. Kuczmarski, Lennon-Edwards, and D.G. Edwards. Impaired L-arginine uptake but not arginase contributes to endothelial dysfunction in rats with chronic kidney disease.  J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2014 Jan;63(1);40-8.
  12. Kuczmarski J.M., C.R. Martens, Lennon-Edwards, and D.G. Edwards. Cardiac function and tolerance to Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury in chronic kidney disease. Nephrol Dial Transplant 2014 Aug;29(8):1514-24.
  13. Lennon-Edwards S. and W.B. Farquhar. ‘Cold as ice’, why do old coronary arteries pay the price? J Physiol. 2013 Jun 1;591(Pt 11):2775-6.
  14. DuPont J.J., J.L. Greaney, M.M. Wenner, Lennon-Edwards, P.W. Sanders, W.B. Farquhar, and D.G. Edwards. High dietary sodium intake impairs endothelium-dependent dilation in salt-resistant humans. J Hypertens. 2013 Mar;31(3):530-6.
  15. Greaney J.L , J.J. DuPont, Lennon-Edwards, P.W. Sanders, D.G. Edwards, and W.B. Farquhar. Acute dietary sodium loading impairs cutaneous microvascular function independent of blood pressure in humans: role of oxidative stress. J Physiol. 2012 Nov 1;590(Pt 21):5519-28.