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Does a Low Salt Diet Really Benefit Health?


According to one recent review, reducing salt in the diet could prevent 500,000 American deaths over the next 10 years. While this sounds impressive, how accurate is it? After all, another study published just this year found no benefit to the low-salt diet and a recent food pattern modeling found that the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for sodium and potassium can’t even be met simultaneously. So where is the truth amidst these conflicting studies??

And is it possible to overly restrict salt? What are the effects of a severely restricted salt diet?

Scientific debate rages on over the salt issue.

Until the past few years the prevailing mindset within the medical community on salt was that the less a person consumes, the better off they will be. However, several studies emerged in 2011 that failed to show a clear benefit of the low salt diet; and some studies even suggested that it is harmful. This apparent contradiction has created confusion in the minds of patients as well as debate among researchers who are seeking the truth.

Interestingly, the debate that is raging about salt among scientists does not divide the opposing sides into neat, tidy categories. In other words, the dispute cannot be characterized as a battle between mainstream traditional advocates and a few marginal dissidents. Instead, respected scientists who are not ideologues are on both sides of the issue.

A study provides some clarity.

What exactly is the truth? Although the debate is far from over, a November 22, 2011 study published in the online Journal of the American Medical Association seems to provide some clarity. The findings indicate that those who consume a high salt diet have the highest risk of cardiovascular problems; however, those who consume a low salt diet have a greater risk than those whose diet includes a moderate amount of salt. Surprisingly, the moderate salt users had the lowest incidence of cardiovascular disease.

These results explain European studies conducted earlier in 2011 that suggest a low salt diet has unhealthful effects and can even raise the risk of heart related deaths. At the time of the November 2011 study, the release of the findings met with strong dissenting views from prominent members of prestigious American medical institutions who discounted the validity of the conclusions. But the lead author, Martin O’Donnell, states that the study’s outcome actually helps clarify the issue. He explains that the results showing lowest risk for moderate salt users but greater risks for both low and high salt users account for the conflicting conclusions drawn from the entire body of salt related research.

O’Donnell believes the preponderance of the scientific evidence supports the premise that those who consume a high sodium diet should lower their salt intake. On the other hand, he contends that current salt intake guidelines should be altered to advise a safe range, instead of an upper recommended limit. O’Donnell advocates that further studies be performed to determine what this safe range should be.





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4 responses to “Does a Low Salt Diet Really Benefit Health?”

  1. N H B Spector says:

    aEach individual is unique,,,so statistics do not provide a reliable guide to optimum diet,,,including salt requirements

  2. N H B Spector says:

    aEach individual is unique,,,so statistics do not provide a reliable guide to optimal diet,,,including salt requirements

  3. SteveK says:

    The two problems that causing researchers to miss the point are:
    1. Confounding the problem caused by processed foods with their salt content. The REFINED salt is bad because it lacks any beneficial minerals, but bad food is bad, and hard to blame particular ingredients.
    2. Unrefined salt (sea salt, Himalayan salt, etc.) are not only good but essential to good health. Refined salt, including iodized salt, is bad due to lack of important mineral content. Our Standard American Diet (SAD) is very acidic, largely because of the refined salt. Unrefined salt, because of the high mineral content, raises pH, helping to offset that problem.

    The one to follow is Dr. David Browstein. See my blog on his Salt book for more information.

    • SteveK says:

      I posted my blog site, but it didn’t take so here it is: http://stevekruba.blogspot.com/2014/01/salt-your-way-to-health-brownstein.html .