Risk of following the American Heart Association sodium intake guidelines, 2010 Dietary Guidelines, Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology study

A Salty Debate

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A Salty Debate

Salt (sodium chloride) is one of the dietary staples that physicians and dieticians love to hate. The American Heart Association recommends that individuals consume no more than 1500 mg of sodium per day. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a daily sodium intake of 2300 mg for the general population and 1500 mg for individuals 51 years of age and older, African Americans, or individuals with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. Iíve even heard some claim that salt is the new tobacco.

Surveys consistently show than almost no one consumes less than 2300 mg of sodium daily. Most people take in between 3000 and 6000 mg of sodium each day. Results of a study looking at the sodium intake of over 100,000 people (PURE - Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology) were recently shared at the World Congress of Cardiology. They suggest that sodium intakes below 3000 mg/day and above 7000 mg/day are associated with a greater risk of premature death and cardiovascular disease. Risk was 25 % higher in those with low sodium intakes and 15 % higher in those with high intakes. The findings parallel those of earlier studies.

For many years I have been explaining that the risk of developing high blood pressure is increased not by the presence of too much sodium in a personís diet, but to deficiencies in other important minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. I know that some people have conditions that can be aggravated by high sodium foods, but the overwhelming majority of individuals experience no ill effects from eating them.

Sodium is one of the bodyís key elements. Without it, life could not exist. Sodium plays a key role in muscle and nerve function. It is the primary substance used to maintain proper fluid balance in the body.

My skepticism of mainstream medicineís attitude toward salt intake is rooted in my farming background. One of the keys to keeping livestock healthy over the course of a hot summer was placing a salt block in the pasture. When working in the fields it was important to take salt tablets along with ample quantities of water to avoid passing out from dehydration during the heat of the day.

I donít advocate routinely reaching for the salt shaker when sitting down to a meal, but neither do I feel itís necessary for you to spend your time reading labels to determine whether the food in question will push you over your daily sodium limit. Unless your meals and snacks consist primarily of processed and packaged foods you should be able to ignore the institutional sodium guidelines and still live a long and healthy life.