New salt study on risk of low sodium draws fire
People who eat the least salt may be hurting their hearts, according to a study causing controversy amid efforts to cut sodium consumption.
The results published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine found the expected link between heart complications and high levels of sodium, which is known to boost blood pressure and cardiovascular risks. Those at the lowest end, as measured by the amount of sodium in their urine, were also at greater risk - a 27 percent increased chance of heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiovascular causes, the study found.
"There is a sweet spot for what the optimum sodium intake is," said Salim Yusuf, senior author of the paper and director of the Population Health Research Institute in Ontario. "The message is very simple: . . . Avoid high and low levels."
Researchers found a healthy range for sodium intake and concluded as many as 75 percent of Americans were in the zone. The issue is that national recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association are in the lower area where cardiovascular risks may increase, Yusuf said.
"Going down to those levels may be harmful," he said.
Experts agreed too much sodium is dangerous.
The findings bolster a May report from the Institute of Medicine that found U.S. dietary recommendations to reduce sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams a day for some people aren't fully supported by scientific evidence.
Elliott Antman, president of the American Heart Association, said flaws with how Yusuf's study was conducted cast doubt on its findings. AHA is reinforcing its efforts to cut salt consumption, he said.
A second study in the medical journal underscored the importance of lowering salt consumption. It found 1.65 million people die worldwide each year because they eat too much sodium, accounting for nearly 1 in 10 deaths from cardiovascular disease.