Not Salt's Fault?

New research raises doubt about whether cutting dietary sodium reduces risk of death from heart disease.

Jul 7, 2011
Jef Akst

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, GARITZKO

For years, doctors have recommended reducing salt intake as a way to lower blood pressure and, presumably, risk of dying from heart attacks and other diseases. But a literature review published this week in the American Journal of Hypertension, found “no clear evidence” that sodium reduction can help save lives, The Washington Post reports. Seven studies of more than 6,000 adults with normal or high blood pressure who ate less salt were no less likely to die, though they did, on average, experience a small decrease in blood pressure.

The study, commissioned by the Cochrane Collaboration, does not rule out the possibility that reducing salt can be beneficial, however, and the researchers call for more research to better understand the effects of dietary sodium.

“With governments setting ever lower targets for salt intake, and food manufacturers working to remove it from their products, it’s really important that we do some large research trials to get a full understanding of the benefits and risks of reducing salt intake,” Rod Taylor of the University of Exeter in Britain said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Virginia-based Salt Institute, a non-profit trade group, has used the results to criticize the push to reduce salt intake, including the US Food and Drug Administration’s effort to lessen American consumption of salt. “The latest medical research has again confirmed that government policy on reducing salt consumption is ill-advised and possibly hazardous to the public’s health,” the institute said in a statement.