Study: Low Salt Diets May Not Benefit Everyone

| by Katie Landoll
A small amount of salt in a measuring spoon. American Heart Association.A small amount of salt in a measuring spoon. American Heart Association.

A recent study suggests that low-salt diets may not be beneficial to the majority of individuals. In fact, consuming very low levels of sodium could do more harm than good.

Researchers at the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences examined the correlation between sodium intake and the risk of heart disease and strokes.

They found that high sodium intake, while harmful for people with high blood pressure, did not correlate with health risks for people with normal blood pressure, says Science Daily.

“Our findings are important because they show that lowering sodium is best targeted at those with hypertension who also consume high sodium diets,” said the lead author of the study, Andrew Mente, in a press release.

If you aren’t at risk for hypertension, chances are good that you’re consuming the right amount of salt, claimed Mente, an associate professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

In addition, the study suggests that very low sodium intake (less than three grams a day) could actually increase the risk of heart disease, strokes, and death.

“While our data highlights the importance of reducing high salt intake in people with hypertension, it does not support reducing salt intake to low levels,” Mente explains.

A number of individuals and organizations in the cardiovascular health research community have criticized the study’s methodology.

Francesco Cappuccio, head of the World Health Organization’s nutrition research center, called the study “flawed” and “biologically meaningless” in an interview with the Independent.

Mark Creager, M.D., president of the American Heart Association, worried that the study could undo years of progress in health education, telling AHA News, “Today’s widely accepted sodium recommendations are based on well-founded scientific research – and that’s what people should understand.”

According to the American Heart Association, the study extrapolated long-term health information from single urine samples, which can indicate healthy sodium levels for participants even if they consume too much salt.

Elliott Antman, M.D., a senior physician of cardiovascular health and an associate research dean at Harvard Medical School, agreed, telling the AHA, “There are a lot of assumptions being made in this study, and the results are not reliable."

Sources: McMaster University, AHA, Independent, Science Daily / Photo credit: AHA

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