Salt Consumption: How Much Do We Really Need

New studies continue to provide important evidence that excess sodium promotes structural and functional impairment of the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys.  Over time, these impairments usually progress to severe diseases, cardiac failure, end-stage renal disease, and death.


Salt Shaker by mconnors/morgueFile

When the American Heart Association (AHA), issued a sodium reduction advisory in 2011, that prompted six other independent studies to be conducted.  In 2011, the AHA recommended that all US adults maintain a sodium intake of not more than 1500 mg/d.  Generally speaking, most US adults consume more than twice that level of salt daily.  Children ages 1-3 years should have less than 1,000 mg/d daily, and children ages 4-8 years of age should consume less than 1,200 mg/d daily.  The six studies did not agree with the AHA’s recommendations and claimed inconsistencies in the AHA’s report.  One study even suggested that low sodium intake was as unhealthy as a high sodium intake diet.


Undeterred, the AHA decided to investigate the six studies that contradicted their findings.  The results were disclosed in the AHA’s journal Circulation, and the AHA still stands by their 2011 recommendations.  After analyzing facts and evidence from the other studies, the AHA found significant weaknesses in each study’s interpretations, and how each study was conducted.  The AHA continues to recommend a maximum intake of 1500 mg/d for adults.


Since most US adults consume an excess of salt from sodium additives during food processing, a new collaboration of interested organizations has emerged to help combat this battle.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US Food and Drug Administration, the US Department of Agriculture, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute are now looking into ways to strengthen US surveillance of sodium content in processed foods.  Sodium is often an unnecessary food additive in the era of refrigeration.


The AHA recommends portion control and less dependence on commercially processed foods.  By choosing to eat minimally processed foods such as perishables, and foods that are prepared at home, a lower intake of salt can be achieved.  Researchers do agree that even a modest salt reduction will likely result in improved health benefits.


References: Circulation Journal



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