We couldn't find that.
Let's go back home and try again.

The Great Salt Debate


There’s a war being waged in scientific circles about how much sodium it’s safe to eat. It’s been going on for decades, but recently, the argument has grown more heated. As researchers duke it out in the pages of medical journals, consumers are caught in a crossfire of contradictory recommendations.

Last year, for example, a highly regarded panel of scientists concluded that cutting down on the amount of salt has no clear benefits. Shortly thereafter, researchers from the CDC insisted that a diet high in sodium increases risk of death from all causes. In both cases, researchers can cite decades of data on thousands of subjects to support their conclusions. What’s going on here?

Part of the confusion lies in trying to make a single recommendation for everyone. For those sensitive to the effects of sodium, eating too much salt can raise blood pressure — and that can be life-threatening.

Salt sensitivities tend to appear in those who are over 50, overweight, African American, or have impaired kidney function. Additionally, people who have high blood pressure or any other reason to believe that they might be sensitive to the effects of sodium are generally advised to keep their sodium intake low — and that makes sense. Specifically, the recommendation for those with reason to limit their sodium intake is to keep it below 1,500 mg per day. That’s a little more than half a teaspoon of regular table salt.

But not everyone is sensitive to salt. Some can eat two or three times that much salt without it affecting their blood pressure or causing any other obvious problems. Some of it is pure genetics, but a lot of it depends on what else you’re eating. For example, if your diet includes a lot of potassium, which we get from fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and other whole foods, it appears to counter the effects of high sodium intake. There’s also some intriguing research suggesting that our bodies may absorb more sodium from food when our diet is high in sugar.

If you have an active lifestyle, you can tolerate a higher salt intake than someone who is more sedentary. Being more active also helps you maintain a healthy body weight, which reduces your risk of high blood pressure.

Balancing Your Sodium Intake
Researchers will likely slice and dice the data on sodium and health for another few decades without reaching a consensus — and they’re never going to come up with one recommendation that is appropriate for everyone. But when you look at the larger picture, it’s actually fairly easy to arrive at some basic principles that are good advice for one and all:

Limit processed and prepared foods — including fast food and snack foods. This is where the vast majority — up to 80 percent — of the sodium in the American diet comes from. Cutting back on these foods is the easiest way to reduce your sodium intake.

Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. These foods are high in potassium, which counters the effects of salt and helps regulate blood pressure. But fruits and vegetables are packed with all kinds of other nutrients, as well, so they’re a healthy addition to any diet. Plus, they’re low in calories — a bonus for weight control.

Stay active and maintain a healthy body weight.
Exercising and keeping your weight down will reduce your risk of high blood pressure and salt sensitivity — and also cut your risk of a long list of diseases and conditions— and increase your quality of life.      MONICA REINAGEL


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *