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Daily Diet: Questions Arise Over Reducing Sodium Intake

SUMMARY: A new review contradicts the accepted wisdom that you should limit your salt intake, finding that gains made from lowering dietary sodium buys little benefit.
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A new review contradicts the accepted wisdom that you should limit your salt intake, finding that gains made from lowering dietary sodium buys you little benefit, particularly for an average, healthy Caucasian.  

The review, consisting of 167 studies and published in the American Journal of Hypertension, finds that the gains made in lowering blood pressure are minimal at best, and that the body fights back, with both blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels rising.

The average decrease in blood pressure due to sodium reduction was -1.27 for systolic BP and -.05 for diastolic BP, both negligible at best. However, levels of rennin, aldosterone, adrenaline, and noradrenaline all rose with reduced sodium intake—each tied to either kidney function or blood vessel constriction.

The published review results stated: “Due to the relatively small effects and due to the antagonistic nature of the effects…these results do not support that sodium may have net beneficial effects in a population of Caucasians.”

However, they did note that Caucasians with elevated blood pressure could benefit from sodium reduction “as a supplementary treatment.” And despite pouring over those 167 studies, the data available for Blacks and Asians was not significant enough to make a case for disregarding sodium standards.

Earlier this year a Belgian study suggested that eating a diet high in salt is not only good for you, but could also reduce the chances of developing heart disease. Researchers found that people with the lowerst salt intake had the highest rate of death from heart disease.

Findings revealed that those having the lowest levels of sodium, an average of about 2,500 mg, or a little more than one teaspoon daily, gained no benefit in reduction of risk against development of high blood pressure than those who had the highest levels of sodium at an average of nearly 6,000 mg per day.

U.S. guidelines for salt intake recommend consumption of under 2,300 milligrams (mg) daily, while those at greater risk for high blood pressure or heart disease, or over the age of 50, are advised to restrict their consumption to less than 1,500 milligrams per day. This is very do-able if you eat a healthy diet heavy in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. It can be very difficult, however, if you cook with prepared box mixes or canned goods—which tend to be heavy on the sale—or if you eat out regularly.

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