You have heard for years that salt is sinful. People who sprinkle salt on their food are frowned upon by many health professionals. The diet dictocrats will tell you that if you eat chips and salsa, cheddar cheese or pizza you will be headed for catastrophe. But what does the evidence reveal? Is salt good or bad for you? Is the question itself outdated? Should most people stop worrying about salt?
Are the AHA’s Sodium Guidelines Outdated?
The American Heart Association (AHA) and Health Canada recommend less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Less than 1 percent of Americans achieve such low levels. Some health experts have questioned the value of the 1.5 gram goal. That has not stopped public health organizations from guilt-tripping most people about their salt intake.
Now, new research published in The Lancet (Aug, 11, 2018) demonstrates that striving to reduce sodium consumption so drastically could be counterproductive. Investigators enlisted 95,000 middle-aged people from 18 countries.
The Canadian researchers followed their subjects for about eight years. Morning urine was tested to estimate sodium and potassium intake. This is one of the largest and most rigorous studies of salt ever undertaken. What the scientists discovered is heretical.
Although moderate sodium intake raised blood pressure somewhat, it appeared to lower the risk of death from heart attacks. Very high intake of sodium, greater than 5 grams daily, was associated with an elevated risk of strokes.
How Much Sodium Do People Consume?
Most people consume between 2 and 3 grams of sodium daily. At this level there was no risk and seemingly some benefit. The more potassium people consumed, the less likely they were to have a heart attack or a stroke.
Old News: Salt is Not the Enemy
For years, researchers have been trying to answer the question: Is salt good or bad for people? And for years the answer keeps coming back that moderate salt consumption (2.5-5 grams of sodium daily) is not dangerous.
Cutting back to below 1.5 grams daily as recommended by the AHA, however, might pose unexpected risks. Here are links to previous studies:
Low-Salt Food Tastes Blah: How Helpful Is It?
The People’s Pharmacy Perspective
Sodium is essential for health. When sodium levels fall too low the result is hyponatremia, a potentially life-threatening situation. Learn more about this condition at this link.
We are firm believers in the moderation in all things slogan. Too much salt is dangerous. Over 5 grams a day would be considered excessive. But too little sodium can also trigger trouble. Maintaining a middle ground between 2 and 3 grams appears to be the sweet spot for most people, based on the latest research.
Share your thoughts on the salt wars in the comment section below. Let us know if you think salt is good or bad and why. Perhaps the question should be, what does sodium do in the body and why it is important?