Salt intake (pertaining to diets containing sodium) is generally thought to be harmful to health, specially if consumed often. However, this ‘general principle’ might actually be more of a specific one: a new study suggests that low-salt diets might not be as beneficial as previously thought, and that they might even be linked with a greater risk of mortality, and developing cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), when compared with average-salt diets. The paper is published in The Lancet.
When researchers from the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences analysed data of over 130,000 individuals from around 50 countries, investigating the correlation between sodium intake and death, heart ailments, and stroke, they found that low-sodium intake (less than three grams per day) is linked with more instances of these diseases as opposed to an average intake. This was found regardless of whether the participants had high blood pressure. Furthermore, another finding of this study suggests that those who need to worry about decreasing their sodium intake would be hypertension patients, and those who usually consume a lot of salt.
Lead author, Andrew Mente from PHRI, explains that while their findings indicate the importance of decreasing consumption of salt in high quantities, they do not, however, suggest that salt intake should be lowered to meager amounts. Rather, decreasing one’s intake of salt would best be applied to people with high blood pressure who already have high-salt intakes.
Moreover, previous research has (also) suggested that low-salt intake is linked with greater risks of both CVD and mortality as opposed to average-salt intake, despite the former also being linked with lower blood pressure.
Mente points out that salt reduction recommendations should be targeted at those with a greater susceptibility due to hypertension or high salt intake, instead of being aimed at whole populations. This would apply to most countries, where the salt intake is already within limits. However, Mente adds that the exceptions would be countries like those from central Asia, and China, where the average sodium consumption is deemed to be very high.
The author also explains that low sodium generates other effects like negative effects on hormone balance, like abnormal increases in certain hormones.
In summary, as per the words of co-author Dr. Martin O’Donnell, recommending a moderate salt consumption, with a specific focus on hypertension patients, seems to be the approach complying with recent findings.