The Washington Post

Cutting down on salt may not reduce disease, analysis concludes

Contrary to prevailing wisdom, reducing the amount of sodium people consume may not necessarily be good for their overall health, according to an analysis released Wednesday.

Many studies have shown that cutting the amount of sodium consumption lowers blood pressure. That has sparked many efforts to lower the salt content of foods. And many governments have been taking steps to try to reduce the amount of sodium in the diet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for example, has been developing plans to try to slowly reduce the daily amount of salt consumed by Americans to help lower their risk of heart disease, and the agency is holding a public hearing on the issue Thursday.

The new analysis was conducted by Niels Graudal of Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark for the Cochrane Collaboration, a highly respected international group that assesses scientific evidence for health issues. Graudal and his colleagues analyzed 167 studies conducted between 1950 and 2011 that compared people who consumed low-sodium versus high-sodium diets.

Low-sodium diets did cut blood pressure levels in people with high and normal blood pressure, the researchers found. But it also significantly increased other risk factors for heart disease, such as cholesterol levels, triglycerides, adrenaline and renin, the researchers reported in the American Journal of Hypertension.

“These results do not support that sodium reduction may have net beneficial effects in a population of Caucasians,” the researchers wrote. ”In Asians and blacks, the affect of sodium reduction was greater, but at present too few studies have been carried out to conclude different from that above.”

The findings are similar to those of another large analysis released last summer.


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