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Low-Salt Diet Dangers

Tuesday, 15 November 2011 10:31 AM EST

Low-salt diets can be bad for your heart, according to a recent analysis of 167 studies that looked at blood pressure, cholesterol, and other markers of health. And, such diets don’t seem to lower elevated blood pressure all that much.

The study looked at all the relevant published research and found that when people with normal blood pressure followed low-salt diets, blood pressure dropped by only 1 percent. For people with hypertension, blood pressure dropped by an average of 3.5 percent on such diets. However, cholesterol increased by 2.5 percent and triglycerides (another blood fat that is harmful when elevated) increased by 7 percent.

For certain people, the study noted, low-salt diets are clearly dangerous. For those who suffer from heart failure or have Type-1 or Type-2 diabetes, a low-salt diet increases risk of death.

This research review was published by The Cochrane Library, a British-based non-profit organization with a network of respected scientists throughout the world, many of whom donate their time. The organization periodically reviews all earlier published studies on a given topic to provide an overview of scientific evidence.

Conventional Wisdom

To put things in perspective, the recommended amount of daily sodium for healthy people is no more than 2,300 milligrams, about one teaspoon of table salt. However, nearly 90 percent of Americans eat more than that, according to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A low-salt diet would contain less than 1,500 milligrams of daily sodium. This is the recommended limit for anyone with high blood pressure or other risk factors, but 99 percent of such people don’t follow the advice.

Do the findings of the Cochrane study mean it’s perfectly alright to forget about salt limits and eat as much as you want? That wasn’t the conclusion of the researchers, although they did say that “we do not know if low-salt diets improve or worsen health outcomes.”

In this country, about three-quarters of our sodium come from processed foods and what we eat in restaurants. A lot of those foods are also high in sugar and overall calories that contribute to unhealthy weight — not the best choices.

As is usually the case, eating fresh foods that are closer to their natural state, prepared with tasty seasonings, will put you on a healthier path. For more on balancing sodium with other necessary minerals, go here and here.

If your doctor is telling you to follow a truly low-salt diet (under 1,500 mg of sodium daily) and you’re not sure if that’s the best path, consider taking the Cochrane study to your next appointment. You can access a snapshot of the findings and a Plain Language Summary here.

© HealthDay

Low-salt diets are not necessarily good for your heart, a review of studies finds.
Tuesday, 15 November 2011 10:31 AM
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