A new analysis of studies has found clear evidence to support health experts’ recommendations that Americans limit daily salt consumption to 1,500 milligrams or less, despite recent questions that have been raised about the sodium guidelines.
The analysis, which informs a new salt an advisory from the American Heart Association published in the organization's journal Circulation, examined recent laboratory, animal, and clinical studies. It reaffirms the association's 2011 advisory that limiting salt can lower the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, including stroke.
"Our recommendation is simple in the sense that it applies to the entire U.S. population, not just at-risk groups," said Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the association. "Americans of all ages, regardless of individual risk factors, can improve their heart health and reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by restricting their daily consumption of sodium to less than 1,500 milligrams."
Some experts have challenged the sodium guidelines, suggesting salt restrictions only result in small benefits for health individuals and that more aggressive strategies — such as increasing physical activity and eating a healthy diet overall — would have a far greater impact on high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
But Dr. Paul K. Whelton, lead author of the advisory and a professor of public health in the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, argued the new analysis shows the weight of scientific evidence indicates limiting salt intake can help fight high blood pressure, which affects more than 76 million U.S. adults and is a major cause of cardiovascular disease.
"People should not be swayed by calls for a change in sodium intake recommendations based on findings from recent studies reporting that a reduction in sodium consumption does not improve cardiovascular health," Whelton said. "Our detailed review of these studies identified serious methodological weaknesses, which limit the value of these reports in setting or revising sodium intake policy.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most American adults and children consume sodium far in excess of their physiologic needs and guideline recommendations — with an average daily intake more than 3,400 milligrams per day.
Most salt is hidden in processed and prepared foods. The American Heart Association advocates improved nutritional labeling of sodium content and stringent limits on sodium in all fresh, processed, and prepared foods.