Care2 will go offline for site maintenance July 31 at 9pm PST.
START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x
559,619 people care about Real Food

Stop Cutting Back on Salt

Stop Cutting Back on Salt

We only think we know the truth about salt, argues Gary Taubes, author of “Why We Get Fat,” in an opinion piece for The New York Times called “Salt, We Misjudged You.”¯ Excess salt is supposed to be bad for us. The maximum recommended sodium intake per day is 2,300 milligrams for healthy individuals; for those who have or are at risk for hypertension, it’s 1,500 milligrams. On average, Americans consume 3,700 milligrams of sodium per day.

The Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association and leading public health experts continue to urge Americans to reduce their sodium consumption to avoid hypertension, heart disease and premature death. But the science on salt linking it to hypertension has always been “weak”¯ and “flimsy.”¯ Taubes explains:

In 1972, when the National Institutes of Health introduced the National High Blood Pressure Education Program to help prevent hypertension, no meaningful experiments had yet been done. The best evidence on the connection between salt and hypertension came from two pieces of research. One was the observation that populations that ate little salt had virtually no hypertension. But those populations didn’t eat a lot of things — sugar, for instance — and any one of those could have been the causal factor. The second was a strain of “salt-sensitive” rats that reliably developed hypertension on a high-salt diet. The catch was that “high salt” to these rats was 60 times more than what the average American consumes.

Even as researchers acknowledged that the data was “inconclusive and contradictory” or “inconsistent and contradictory,”¯ the campaign for sodium reduction was born. After all, the national program Taubes references was founded to advise Americans on measures that could be taken to prevent hypertension, so researchers had to come up with something.

Some studies, like the 2001 DASH-Sodium trial, suggested that cutting back on salt does lower blood pressure, but there is no conclusive evidence showing that it also moderates hypertension. Yet, in the American consciousness, the link between salt and hypertension is strong, and it has become conventional wisdom, however misguided, that one of the best ways to fight hypertension is by reducing salt consumption.

Reducing salt consumption, in fact, may hurt more than help us, as new evidence that has emerged over the past two years suggests. In fact, the same year that the NIH introduced the National High Blood Pressure Education Program, Taubes writes, “The New England Journal of Medicine reported that the less salt people ate, the higher their levels of a substance secreted by the kidneys, called renin, which set off a physiological cascade of events that seemed to end with an increased risk of heart disease. In this scenario: eat less salt, secrete more renin, get heart disease, die prematurely.”

Whether experts advise us to eat less or more salt may not matter in the last. A Harvard study, published in the November 2010 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that salt intake is about the same today as it was nearly 50 years ago, in spite of the 40-year-old campaign to reduce Americans’ salt consumption. The study was based on the amount of salt tested in the urine of 26,000 participants between the years 1957 and 2003. (The urine test is a more reliable measure than is self-reporting of what and how much participants ate in a day.)

As USA Today reported at the time, “researchers thought they would find that salt intake had increased over time because Americans eat more processed foods today than in 1957. But decade after decade, people consistently consumed about 3,700 milligrams of sodium a day.” Rates of high blood pressure, on the other hand, have gone up in the past 20 years, suggesting that “America’s ever-rising obesity rates may play a more critical role in this rise than salt intake.”

Additional studies showed that salt consumption among various populations in more than 30 countries also remained stable over time. What’s remarkable is that every one of these populations consumed roughly 3,700 milligrams of sodium per day. As one researcher put it, “it’s spooky how consistent this number is.” “This consistency,” Taubes writes, “suggests that how much salt we eat is determined by physiological demands, not diet choices.”

So the science against salt, to say the least, is shaky. For the food industry, which has been criticized for the abundance of sodium it uses in its formulations of processed foods, the news is cause for celebration. But, to be clear, the fact that it may be okay to eat more salt than indicated by official guidelines is not an endorsement for eating more processed foods. Processed foods are to be avoided for many other reasons. The verdict on salt, on the other hand, is under review.

Related Stories:

Is a Low Salt Diet Really Good For You?

Mmmm, Mmmm, Bad…Bloomberg Says Soup’s Too Salty

Call For Mandatory Nutrition Information on Restaurant Menus

Read more: , , , , , ,

Photo Credit: Happy Krissy

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it

104 comments

+ add your own
7:37AM PST on Nov 7, 2012

What no-one mentions is that you should eat sea-salt and stay away from cheap table salt which usually contains anti-caking agent. Sea-salt or Herba-Mare are the best healthy choices.

12:19AM PDT on Oct 14, 2012

A Dr in Tasmania has done research (over his lifetime) on this subject.
His research can be found at
http://www.saltmatters.org/site/

10:38AM PDT on Aug 28, 2012

interesting.... i do love me some salt :)

4:16AM PDT on Jul 15, 2012

Thanks for the article

9:15PM PDT on Jun 11, 2012

Some studies, like the 2001 DASH-Sodium trial, suggested that cutting back on salt does lower blood pressure, but there is no conclusive evidence showing that it also moderates hypertension.

Do you not know that "high blood pressure" IS hypertention??

5:32PM PDT on Jun 11, 2012

Thanks for the article.

12:23AM PDT on Jun 11, 2012

Thanks for the article.

12:01PM PDT on Jun 10, 2012

As I moved into my 60's I developed edema (excess water) that caused my legs and feet to swell. For that I try to limit my intake. But I love salty things. My mom, who had high blood pressure, would say how lucky I was to have excellent blood pressure and could therefore eat as much salt as I liked. We are all individuals and our needs vary. Excess of anything is usually not such a good thing.

12:19AM PDT on Jun 10, 2012

Bottom line: if you have a problem with salt, then don't add it or cut back, whatever you need to do. Not all of us need to do that. Some don't have a problem with salt, while others need to cut back. I have never had a problem with salt, and I use good quality salt, which I will continue to do.

10:58PM PDT on Jun 9, 2012

That was a long and complicated article and I didn't read it all, but I'm guessing it's saying, salt is good? If so, awww yeah!

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

Too. Funny. These kind of rulings will bite these people in the arse. Eventually, folks will figure out…

P.S We don't have 17 Spanish independent communities,we have 7 Islands which form 2 Provinces with 1…

Considering that the planet is already overpopulated with humans, it seems to me that it would be better…

meet our writers

Steve Williams Steve Williams is a passionate supporter of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) rights, human... more
Story idea? Want to blog? Contact the editors!
ads keep care2 free

more from causes




Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.