The dangers of a low salt diet
Salt, also known as sodium chloride, is needed by everyone in order to properly function. Salt helps maintain the body’s balance of fluids. Salt is also found in many foods as a preservative by helping to keep it from spoiling and keeping certain foods safe to eat. But according to the FDA, nearly all Americans consume more salt than they need, according to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The FDA’s recommended salt consumption guidelines
The natural salt in food accounts for about 10 percent of total intake, on average, according to the FDA guidelines. The salt that we add to our food when cooking and at the table adds another 5 to 10 percent. About 75 percent of our total salt intake comes from salt added to processed foods by manufacturers and salt that cooks add to the food at restaurants and other food service establishments. The FDA states that the possible negative health effects of salt, such as high blood pressure, can lead to heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease.
The amount of salt in products is labeled as “sodium” on the nutrition facts label on food packaging. It is recommended that the daily consumption of salt for the general population is no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, approximately a teaspoon of table salt. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of salt than others. The FDA suggests that in order to lower your daily salt intake you should eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, Flavor food with pepper and other spices opposed to salt, choose unsalted snacks and be sure to read food labels and choose things with lower sodium. The FDA also suggests that you should consume foods that are rich in potassium. Potassium can help dull the effects of sodium on a person’s blood pressure. You can also choose to use a salt substitute, which contains potassium chloride, and can be used to replace the salt in your diet. There are no known ill effects in healthy individuals from consuming potassium. However, people with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease, could experience harmful effects from consuming to much potassium. You should always check with your doctor before consuming salt substitutes. The full FDA guidelines can be found at FDA.GOV.
Is the FDA recommended low salt diet a good choice for everyone?
According to recent research conducted by Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, suggest that only those who have hypertension and an extremely high salt diet, should be concerned by a low salt diet. According to Hamilton University, the worldwide study shows that a low salt diet may actually increase the risk of Cardiovascular Disease. The study consisted of more than 130,00 people across the globe. The findings of the research show that regardless of whether a person has high blood pressure or not, a low salt diet is associated with more heart attacks, strokes, and mortality, in comparison to those who consume an average amount of salt. The Population Health Research Institute looked directly at the relationship between the amount of salt consumed and its relation to mortality. They also looked at the relationship of salt and its contribution to heart disease and stroke. All of which differs in people who have high blood pressure, in comparison to those who have normal blood pressure.
“These are extremely important findings for those who are suffering from high blood pressure,” said Andrew Mente, lead author of the study, a principal investigator of PHRI and an associate professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. “While our data highlights the importance of reducing high salt intake in people with hypertension, it does not support reducing salt intake to low levels. “Our findings are important because they show that lowering sodium is best targeted at those with hypertension who also consume high sodium diets.”
Previous studies have also shown that low salt intake is related to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death, despite the fact that low salt intake is considered relevant to achieving lower blood pressure. The new study shows that the risk of consuming less than 3 grams per day, is consistent regardless of whether or not a person has hypertension. It is believed that even though there is a risk to how little salt a person should consume, the harm that is associated with high sodium consumption is limited to those who have high blood pressure. It was noted that the normal daily consumption set for many may indeed be too low. “Low sodium intake reduces blood pressure modestly, compared to average intake, but low sodium intake also has other effects, including adverse elevations of certain hormones which may outweigh any benefits. The key question is not whether blood pressure is lower with very low salt intake, instead it is whether it improves health,” Mente said
Dr. Martin O’Donnell, a co-author on the study and an associate clinical professor at McMaster University and National University of Ireland Galway, said: “This study adds to our understanding of the relationship between salt intake and health, and questions the appropriateness of current guidelines that recommend low sodium intake in the entire population.” “An approach that recommends salt in moderation, particularly focused on those with hypertension, appears more in-line with current evidence.”
In conclusion, it appears that while we have all been acknowledging salt guidelines to reduce the amount of sodium that we consume, we may have in fact been doing more harm to our bodies than good. A low salt diet may not in fact be benefiting your health at all, unless of course you suffer from high blood pressure. Regardless, you should always speak to your doctor or health care professional before making a drastic change in your diet, including removing or reducing your salt intake.