More evidence that salt intake does no harm

A new study out from Canada says that people lowering their salt intake are at greater risk from strokes and heart disease.  One of the great strengths of the study was that it was a cohort study in that it studied real people over a period of time as opposed to case controlled where retrospectively people are asked about their intake when they are ill. The article says:

“Researchers from McMaster University in Ontario looked at data from drug trials involving nearly 30,000 individuals who already had heart disease or diabetes. Participants in these trials had their sodium intake measured through urine analysis and were followed for an average of four to five years to record the incidence of heart-related hospitalizations and deaths.

After adjusting for factors like medications, weight, smoking and cholesterol levels, researchers found that too little salt is doing harm instead of good. Those who consumed between 4,000 and 6,000 milligrams of sodium per day–more than double the current recommendations–were at theleastrisk for heart disease and stroke.

People who ate a diet lower in salt didn’t experience less risk, but more. Researchers found that people who consume 2,000 to 3,000 mg of sodium per day were actually 20 percent more likely to experience death or hospitalization related to heart conditions, compared to those consuming between 4,000 and 6,000 mg daily.

But don’t take this as advice that salt intake should be completely unlimited. Moderation appears to be key because consuming too much salt puts you at even higher risk. Those who consumed more than 8,000 mg of sodium per day were 50 to 70 percent more likely to have a stroke or heart attack, or to be hospitalized or die from heart disease.

Results from this study indicate that people who already consume a moderate amount of sodium do not benefit from lowering their salt intake. In fact, it may even harm them.

Dr. Martin O’Donnell, lead author of the study and associate clinical professor of medicine at McMaster University, says, “When you take people at more moderate intake levels, there is emerging uncertainty as to whether there are long-term benefits of reducing sodium intake further.”

The new report, published in this week’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, contradicts what many of us have been told about salt. The research team involved urges officials to recommend a safer range of sodium intake rather than to set a single rigid limit.

Even better, of course, would be a recommendation to choose a natural salt like sea salt instead of highly refined commercial salt, which often contains harmful additives and lacks a balanced mineral profile.”

Sources for this article include:………

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3 Responses to More evidence that salt intake does no harm

  1. Rose says:

    Happy New Year, Dave

    I must admit that I have been following the denormalisation of salt with considerable interest for some while.
    The implications of this meddling seem even worse than first appears, particularly for growing children,here’s a few snippets.

    Iodized Salt

    “Iodine deficiency disorder (IDD) is a serious public health threat for 2 billion people worldwide. It is the leading cause of mental development disorders in young children, from cretinism to more subtle degrees of impaired cognitive development which can lead to poor school performance and reduced work capacity in hundred of millions of children.

    It is implicated in still-birth, miscarriage, physical impairment and thyroid dysfunction. As such, it is crucially important that pregnant women and young children in particular get adequate levels of iodine.

    IDD can easily be prevented at low cost, however, with small quantities of iodine.
    One of the best and least expensive methods of preventing iodine deficiency disorder is by simply iodizing table salt, which is currently done in many countries.”

    “The use of iodized table salt in the United States today prevents iodine deficiency. However, the Great Lakes, Midwest, and inner mountain areas of the United States were once called the “goiter belt,” because a high number of goiter cases occurred there. A lack of enough iodine is still common in central Asia, the Andes region of South America, and central Africa”

    A pinch too much

    “Salt will likely be first in the crosshairs. Pressure has been building for the sodium found mainly in table salt—currently an unrestricted substance “generally reckoned to be safe”—to be regulated as an “additive” subject to legal limits.”

    “Halving the amount of salt in the diet, says the AMA, would save 150,000 lives annually in the United States alone. That’s five times more than the number of people killed on the road each year.”

    “But unlike trans-fat, removing salt from the diet altogether would be most unwise. Sodium is one of the body’s four essential electrolytes (along with potassium, calcium and magnesium). It helps maintain the right balance of fluids in the body, and allows the brain to transmit messages and the muscles to contract and relax.”

    “The modern salt saga started in 1904 with a paper by Ambard and Brochard3 who showed an association between salt intake and blood pressure in six patients. On the basis of these observations they created a salt–blood pressure hypothesis.

    Subsequently in 1907 the results were opposed by Lôwenstein,4 and from then on the salt–blood pressure hypothesis has been the basis for a dispute between supporters of the hypothesis and sceptics.

    What we can learn from this is that the salt–blood pressure hypothesis and the controversy dates back to the first decade of the previous century, initially based on a few case histories”
    “In the following years Allan’s positive results were both confirmed and disproved by several authors, but during the late 1930s the use of salt restriction faded.”

    “In the introduction of his 1960 paper Dahl defines his position, namely that salt is deleterious. Salt is compared with fall-out, carcinogens and atherogenic factors, and later in the paper with tobacco, alcohol, and fat”


    One segment of the public health community—funded by the the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and endorsed by many journals in the field has decided that salt is a public health menace.

    Therefore, salt consumption must be drastically curtailed. The force with which this conclusion is presented to the public is not in any reasonable balance with the strength of the evidence.
    Programs, once in place, develop a life of their own; the possibility of health benefits becomes probability, and probability becomes certainty. After all, the public is easily confused by complications,
    only professionals can weigh the evidence, and where is the harm in salt

    The harm is to public discourse. The appearance of scientific unanimity is a powerful political tool, especially when the evidence is weak.
    Dissent becomes a threat, which must be marginalized. If funding agencies and journals are unwilling to brook opposition, rational discussion is curtailed.

    There soon comes about the pretense of national policy based on scientific inquiry without the substance. In our view, salt is only one example of this phenomenon.

    Click to access 573.pdf

    “Amid concern that people in the United States are consuming inadequate amounts of iodine, scientists in Texas have found that 53 percent of iodized salt samples contained less than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended level of this key nutrient. Iodized table salt is the main source of iodine for most individuals, they note in a study scheduled for the Feb. 15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology”

    “If salt does supply a significant portion of the iodine intake of a pregnant/lactating woman in the United States (note that a large fraction of postnatal vitamins contain no iodine), and she is unfortunate enough to pick a can of salt that is low in iodine or in which distribution is greatly uneven, there is a potential for serious harm,” the study states.”

    Source: ACS

    “Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at St George’s Hospital and chair of the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) dismisses the negative take on salt reduction as “balderdash” claiming that such findings are “usually put out by the food industry” to bolster their own cause”

    You know, between you and me, though I do try to be charitable, I sometimes start to wonder if they make these careless mistakes on purpose, unintended consequences and all.

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