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Population-wide salt reduction may do more harm than good

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By David Liu, Ph.D.

Saturday Nov 12, 2011 (foodconsumer.org) --- A meta analysis published in the Nov 9, 2011 issue of American Journal o Hypertension suggests that reduced intake of salt may slightly lower blood pressure, but it may not be able to help reduce heart risk because salt reduction also increases a host of other risk factors for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

The meta-analysis of data from 167 clinical studies confirmed that a low salt diet compared to a high salt diet can cause a reduction of 3.5 mmHg in mean blood pressure for people with hypertension, and no more than 1 mmHg in those without hypertension.

However, less publicized is the fact that salt reduction can can pose other risks.  

The Salt Institute, a trade organization representing the salt industry, cited the study in its press release as finding that people on a lower salt diet had a significant increase in serum renin, aldosterone, adrenaline, and noradrenaline levels, all risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The study also found those who were on a low salt diet raise serum concentrations of cholesterol, particularly low density cholesterol and triglycerides, both of which are linked to increased risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease.

"After reading this new, in-depth medical study, our federal government should tell Americans, 'Warning: LOW-sodium diets are hazardous to your health,'" said Lori Roman, president of the Salt Institute. 

By the definition used in the study,  a diet with1,600 mg sodium per day was considered a low salt diet. Intake of 1,600 mg sodium per day is recommended by the U.S. government in its Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The study was conducted by Niels A. Graudal and colleagues from Copenhagen University Hospital at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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