Published: Sun, August 12, 2018
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

Salt Does Not Increase the Risk of Health Problems, Shows Study

Salt Does Not Increase the Risk of Health Problems, Shows Study

"We should be far more concerned about targeting communities and countries with high average sodium intake - above five grams (equivalent to 12.5 grams of salt), such as China - and bringing them down to the moderate range" of 7.5 to 12.5 grams of salt, said lead author Andre Mente, a professor in the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Canada.

However, according to research carried out previously by the World Health Organization (WHO) the sodium intake should be below 2 grams a day to reduce the global incidence of hypertension and strokes associated with high salt consumption.

80% (82/103) of the communities in China has a mean sodium intake greater than 5g/day, whereas in other countries, 84% (224/266) communities had a mean intake of 3-5g/day. For a vast majority of individuals, sodium consumption does not increase heart risks, except for those who eat more than five grams a day, the equivalent of 2.5 teaspoons of salt. The new study states that a sodium intake between three to five grams is not causing health problems. Our findings demonstrate that community-level interventions to reduce sodium intake should target communities with high sodium consumption, and should be embedded within approaches to improve overall dietary quality.

Study's co-author Martin O'Donnell, Associate Professor at McMaster said that the impact of sodium intake is heavily contingent on individual-level information, or so can be inferred from most previous studies. "Sodium consumption was inversely associated with myocardial infarction or heart attacks and total mortality, and no increase in stroke".

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The research went after 94,000 people, aged 35 to 70, for an average of eight years in communities from18 countries around the world and discovered that there is a linked risk of cardiovascular disease and strokes where the intake of sodium is higher than 5 grams a day. This is the relationship we would expect for any essential nutrient and health. Diets rich in fruit and vegetables are high in potassium.

Furthermore, rates of stroke, cardiovascular death, and total mortality decreased with increasing potassium intake in these communities.

"Our study adds to growing evidence to suggest that, at moderate intake, sodium may have a beneficial role in cardiovascular health". However, it is not known whether potassium itself is protective, or whether it might simply be a marker of a healthy diet. The simple fact that a trial looking at salt restriction has to be done in the federal prison population indicates that curtailing salt intake is notoriously hard. Less than five per cent of individuals in advanced countries cross that mark.

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