The Effect of Salt

The "National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey" (dubbed NHANES I) took place between 1971 and 1992 (Reference 2). A baseline (initial population) of almost 21,000 people were surveyed in the 1971 to 1975 time frame and 11,346 selected for followup after medical examinations. They were reexamined in 1992 - by that time 3922 of them had died (1970 of them from cardio-vascular disease). The researchers attempted to correlate the death rate with the intake of sodium. Their conclusion states clearly that "these data provide no support for a recommendation to increase (or decrease) intake of salt or to decrease its concentration in the diet". In other words, intake of salt does not increase (or decrease) the risk of death! We emphasize that this study was conducted in the general population. It may (or may not) apply to hypertensive people (the impact of their participation in this study would be minimal).

The issue was debated in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (References 3 and 4) in the year 2000. Reference 3, in favor of changes updating requirements for sodium consumption states that "The current recommendations for sodium intake stem from studies and publications that are older than much of the public they are designed to benefit". The author points out that a figure correlating the salt intakes of populations with their blood pressure, originally used to justify the claim tht increases salt increased blood pressure, turned out to be devoid of factual basis. Reference 4, rejecting any change in sodium intake guidelines, states that "This (guideline level) amount of sodium is far in excess of any physiologic need and is likely an essential though not by itself sufficient primary cause of hypertension as well as a contributor to many other cardiovascular and renal abnormalities". The author points out that hypertensive people do succeed in reducing their blood pressure when they reduce their sodium intake. This sounds more "legalese" than science, so let's see what the data says!

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Last Modification - September 1, 2008