Study Shows Average Consumption of Salt Good for Heart Health

article image Drive to curb salt intake should focus on China: study

At the opposite pole to the United States and the United Kingdom, there is China with more than 80% of the adult population consuming above 5 g of salt each day.

"Only in the communities with the most sodium intake - those over five grams a day of sodium - which is mainly in China, did we find a direct link between sodium intake and major cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke".

It should be noted that the who considers normal daily sodium intake for a healthy person, 2 grams per day, which corresponds to 5 g of salt or it teaspoon. The World Health Organization (WHO) guideline recommends that sodium consumption be lower than 2 g/day (equivalent to 5 g/day of salt, or 1 teaspoon), though the American Heart Association goes further and recommends an upper threshold of 1.5 g/day.

Four-fifths of the groups examined in China had average daily salt intake of 12.5 grams, whereas in other countries 84 percent ingested between 7.5 and 12.5 grams. "Our findings demonstrate that community-level interventions to reduce sodium intake should target communities with high sodium consumption, and should be embedded within approaches to improve overall dietary quality", said Professor O'Donnell.

The team used data from the ongoing Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study for the analysis.

Other experts in the field question the study conclusions, saying the formula for assessing sodium intake used in the study is not an accurate one. "Sodium consumption was inversely associated with myocardial infarction or heart attacks and total mortality, and no increase in stroke".

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"Our study adds to growing evidence to suggest that, at moderate intake, sodium may have a beneficial role in cardiovascular health, but a potentially more harmful role when intake is very high or very low".

The Human body needs essential nutrients such as sodium and many vitamins, but the ideal amount remains subject to debate. The recommendation to lower sodium consumption to 2g/day is based on short-term trials of sodium intake and blood pressure, and the assumption that any approach to reduce blood pressure will necessarily translate into a lower risk of cardiovascular disease with no unintended consequences.

Furthermore, rates of stroke, cardiovascular death, and total mortality decreased with increasing potassium intake in these communities. Diets rich in fruit and vegetables are high in potassium.

The study followed 94,000 people, aged 35 to 70, for an average of eight years in communities from18 countries around the world and found there an associated risk of cardiovascular disease and strokes only where the average intake is greater than five grams of sodium a day.

Professor Martin O'Donnell, McMaster University, co-author on the study, adds: "Our findings support other research recommending an all-round healthy diet with an emphasis fruit and vegetables, dairy foods, potatoes, nuts and beans".

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