Most People Seem to Be Eating Right Amount of Salt

Heart disease and death tied to too much and too little sodium intake

(RxWiki News) Many diets stress the need to cut down on salt. But the average person’s salt consumption may already be in the ideal range, according to a new study.

Researchers found a relationship between salt intake and instances of death and cardiovascular disease.

The study suggests that people who consumed too much or too little salt (sodium) were worse off than people who consume salt within the range the vast majority of individuals surveyed already were eating.

For most people it may not be necessary to adjust salt intake at all, the study found.

"Talk to your doctor about the amount of salt in your diet."

Dr. Niels Graudal, MD, a professor in the Department of Public Health at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, led this research.

Dr. Graudal’s team looked at data taken from 25 previous studies including 274,683 participants and focused on the risks of mortality (death) and cardiovascular disease based on sodium consumption levels.

Cardiovascular disease, or heart disease, is commonly caused by narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart. That narrowing or blockage can lead to a heart attack.

Dr. Graudal and colleagues broke salt consumption into three groups: less than 2,645 milligrams per day; between 2,645 and 4,945 milligrams per day; and more than 4,945 milligrams per day.

These researchers found that 90 percent of participants fell into the group that consumed between 2,645 and 4,945 milligrams each day.  That’s between 1.13 teaspoons and 2.10 teaspoons per day.

“Compared with the usual sodium intake throughout the world, those consuming more or less sodium were at increased risk of both” mortality (death) and cardiovascular disease, Dr. Graudal and team concluded.

They continued, “The harmful effect associated with a high sodium intake … was stronger than the harmful effect associated with a low sodium intake.”

Dr. Graudal's findings differ from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's consumption recommendation of less than 2,300 milligrams per day. That amount is less than one teaspoon.

"I find it most interesting the observation that most people — around the world and through any historical studies of diet — have naturally consumed salt at what this study deems to be the safest range of salt intake," said Deborah Gordon, MD, a homeopathic and nutritian expert.

"Sometimes it's just best to leave well enough alone. Unless someone has very unstable congestive heart failure, I encourage all my patients to salt their food to taste," Dr. Gordon told dailyRx News.

These findings by Dr. Graudal and colleagues were published in the American Journal of Hypertension online March 20.

Funding was provided by the nonprofit A.P. Meller Foundation for the Advancement of Medical Science.

The authors did not disclose any relevant conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
April 4, 2014