Most nutritionists agree that consuming too much salt can be dangerous to your health. The question is still just how much is too much.
The federal government is on the side urging that Americans aggressively limit salt intake. For two decades, it has warned that most people were eating dangerous amounts of salt that could increase their risk of high blood pressure and heart issues. The new guidelines maintain a daily limit of less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium -- about a teaspoon of salt.
Some skeptics have argued that the typical American's consumption of about 3,500 milligrams per day does not raise significant health risks and that the upper limit should actually be closer to 6,000 milligrams. They say that consuming too little salt, which they define as below 3,000 milligrams daily, carries its own health risks -- a directly contradictory claim.
For those seeking practical advice about whether to limit their salt intake, the controversy has been confusing.
Here's a look at where we get our sodium:
In December, New York City became the first jurisdiction in the country to require warning labels on high-sodium dishes like sandwiches and salads served in chain restaurants. The symbol, a black-and-white salt shaker, appears on menu items with more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium. One example is the cheddar and bacon burger at TGI Friday's, which the company's nutritional information shows has 4,280 milligrams of sodium.
The federal government's influential Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which were released Thursday, are updated every five years, and the debate over saturated fats, red meat, caffeine and salt was especially intense this time around.
The guidelines are the basis of everything from school lunch programs to the diets promoted in bestselling books, but in recent years some scientists have begun to question the one-size-fits-all approach. A growing body of research supports the theory that a person's genetic makeup or microbiome (the organisms that live on or inside of you and help to make you who you are) plays a key role in how food affects the body -- and that the impact can be different from one individual to another. That work supports a more personalized approach to diet, which some researchers argue have argued is the future of nutrition science.
A look at how much salt we're eating on average per day as compared to the recommended limit, from the new report:
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