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

Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day say the NHS

Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day say the NHS

A new worldwide study has found that moderate salt consumption is not a health risk for most people.

Four-fifths of the groups examined in China had average daily salt intake of 12.5 grams, whereas in other countries 84 percent ingested between 7.5 and 12.5 grams.

The new paper in the Lancet is from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, an ambitious ongoing observational study.

"Only in the communities with the most sodium intake, those over five grammes a day of sodium, which is mainly in China, did we find a direct link between sodium intake and major cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke". The authors say that sodium reduction strategies should instead target communities with high average levels of sodium consumption (above 5g/day).

However, experts have said the method used to estimate salt intake is not reliable and that a preponderance of Chinese participants in the study may be prejudicing the results. Higher sodium intake was associated with lower rates of myocardial infarction and total mortality.

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The Human body needs essential nutrients such as sodium and many vitamins, but the ideal amount remains subject to debate.

"Sodium is an essential nutrient but the requirement is very low at about 0.5 grams (1.25 grams of salt) per day". The recommendation to lower sodium consumption to 2g/day is based on short-term trials of sodium intake and blood pressure, and the assumption that any approach to reduce blood pressure will necessarily translate into a lower risk of cardiovascular disease with no unintended consequences.

The study also suggests that too much salt in the diet is not a widespread global problem, though some populations which consume very high levels of salt would likely benefit from curbing salt. However, it is not known whether potassium itself is protective, or whether it might simply be a marker of a healthy diet.

According to Professor Mente, the researchers found a decrease in all major cardiovascular issues when there was an increase in the consumption of potassium, which is found abundantly in fruits, vegetables, dairy products, nuts, potatoes, and beans. "While low sodium intake does reduce blood pressure, at very low levels it may also have other effects, including adverse elevations of certain hormones associated with an increase in risk of death and cardiovascular diseases", adds Professor Mente. But only about 5% of people in developed countries have sodium intake over 5 g/day. 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.

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