Although it should be a settled issue by now, the great “war” against salt continues to rage in 2014. (Probably because the war helps keep a lot of political scientists and science bureaucrats employed working in the “salt mines.”)
One anti-salt apostle even claims, “salt is the new tobacco.” But this is an unscientific opinion. And it’s not even half-right.
As you know, the U.S. government has made salt a public enemy for one main reason…
They claim it causes high blood pressure.
As I always say, stress is the No. 1 cause of high blood pressure in most people. And salt is only a primary problem for a small minority.
But the government treats us all the same. And it treats salt like a villain, with a “zero-tolerance” policy.
They recommend you limit salt intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day.
But this limit is ridiculous. Fewer than one-one hundredth of one percent (0.01 percent) of the population can achieve the government guideline. Plus, it’s unhealthy–and lacks a fundamental understanding of human biology.
You see, sodium is an essential mineral. Your body needs it for all cellular communications, hydration, and essential physiologic functions. We should all make sure to get enough fluid and electrolytes. And what is the major electrolyte in the body? Sodium.
So your real goal should be to achieve balance. Not a nearly zero salt intake.
In fact, the optimal range for salt intake falls between 3,000 mg and 6,000 mg per day. That’s 3 to 6 grams. (In terms of the government’s “war on salt,” we can think of this range as the “demilitarized” zone.)
In fact, a new study confirms my view…
Researchers recently conducted a new analysis of the PURE Study (Prospective Urban-Rural Epidemiology). They looked at data for 101,945 participants and found that men and women who consumed 3,000 to 6,000 mg of sodium per day had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease events and deaths. But when patients went outside that zone, they landed in a salt pile of trouble.
In fact, researchers found that men and women with either high or low sodium intake increased their cardiovascular disease risk. And this connection held up among people with and without high blood pressure.
Of course, the low-salt warriors immediately attacked these findings. They say the study’s findings challenge the American Heart Association’s (AHA) recommendations. (How dare the facts challenge the dogma?)
Like the U.S. government, the AHA says everyone should keep their sodium intake below 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Plus, if you’re over age 51 years and/or African-American, the AHA says you should limit yourself to 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
That’s half the lower limit of the PURE study’s “safety zone.” And it puts millions of Americans at risk!
You see, in the PURE analysis, the average sodium intake was 4,900 mg per day. According to the AHA, with numbers like those, everyone in the study should be dropping like flies. But only 8 percent actually had cardiovascular disease!
Overall, about half of the participants consumed between 4,000 and 6,000 mg sodium daily. Only 10 percent of participants consumed less than 3,000 mg per day. And nobody consumed less than 2,300 mg (the government and the AHA’s ridiculous “maximum” limit).
But those who consumed less than 3,000 mg per day actually had a 25 percent increased risk of cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality! So, clearly the AHA’s guidelines place everyone at risk of higher death rates and cardiovascular events.
Of course, it’s important to note that there is a safety zone. And there may be such a thing as too much salt.
At the very highest end, men and women who consumed more than 7,000 mg of sodium per day had a 15 percent increased risk of death and cardiovascular events. (But remember, the low-salt group’s risk went up by 25 percent!)
Now–let’s look at the numbers for men and women in the study who did not have high blood pressure…
The low-salt group with normal blood pressure had an increased risk of cardiovascular events and death. But the high-salt group with normal blood pressure had no increased risk at all. So this confirms that the real problem is high blood pressure, not high salt. Or, put another way, these findings show that unless you have high blood pressure, there is no reason to worry about salt.
These results may surprise you. But they shouldn’t. The PURE study isn’t a lone shot in the dark. This kind of data has been around for a long time.
Data from two other major studies–the ONTARGET and TRANSCEND studies–support the PURE study results. Together, these two other studies followed 28,880 men and women at higher risk of cardiovascular disease. In these studies, men and women who consumed less than 3,000 mg sodium per day had an increased risk of suffering a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke.
So, once again, the U.S. government and the AHA have been giving us bad advice all along. But real science shows you don’t need to worry about salt–especially if you have normal blood pressure–except to make sure you’re getting enough.
1. “Most Americans Should Consume Less Sodium,” Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) 2/24/2014
2. Yusuf, S, et al World Congress of Cardiology 2014 Scientific Sessions
3. “Salt and Battery: Debate on Sodium Targets Gets Feisty,” Medscape (www.medscape.com) 5/7/2014