If you are paying attention, then you have probably noticed a trend of sorts – particularly about contradictory medical findings. Take virtually any substance that can be consumed or ingested (except maybe tobacco and narcotics) and you will find evidence, in the form of published medical reports, in favor of moderate consumption as well as evidence that will scare you away from taking another bite. I have seen such reports on everything from conventionally grown produce to chocolate. So if you are paying attention, it is (to say the least) somewhat confusing and confounding to know what, and how much of it, to put in your mouth.
Salt, as we have all been told, is horrendously bad for you, especially in large amounts. The habitual consumption of salty foods has been linked to heart disease and hypertension, along with higher instances of strokes and heart attacks. For some, even a modest amount of salt in their diet can spell years of complications and health risks. A few years back an article in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated (using previous studies’ numbers) that the U.S. could prevent 44,000 deaths annually if Americans reduced their salt intake by three grams per day. The common recommendation among at risk populations (which is about half of the American population) was 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day, or a little more than half a teaspoon of salt (2,300 mg is what is recommended for the other half of the population).
But within the last three to five years there has been a mounting case that (surprise!) greatly differs, or contradicts, these findings and recommendations. A new expert committee, commissioned by the Institute of Medicine at the behest of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there was no rationale for anyone to aim for sodium levels below 2,300 milligrams a day (this includes at-risk populations) and in some instances some people may be at risk for consuming too little sodium. Brian Strom, a dean and professor of public health at the University of Pennsylvania, recently told NPR that the report revealed, “The net conclusion is that people who are eating too much sodium should lower their sodium, but it is possible that if you lower it too much you may do harm.” This is in reference to an Italian study cited in the by the commission where patients with congestive heart failure actually did worse on low sodium diets.
To be sure, The Heart Association is staying firm on their long-held position that sodium intake should be greatly regulated and maintained at the advised levels. But it is difficult to know who or what to believe. I figure if you are part of the “at risk” population you would probably be advised to keep away from high-sodium products and keep a close watch on your general sodium intake. What are your views of such findings and the nature of contradictory reports? Are you influenced one way or another?