Salt in moderation is good for you, even necessary, study finds

 
By Morgan Sherburne • Published: November 20th, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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All of the times salt-lovers have tossed a couple grains over their shoulders for good luck may have worked: A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine has split the difference in opinion on salt consumption.

Previously, a Tufts University study found that consuming more than the World Health Organization’s recommendation of two grams of salt per day could be behind the more than 1.6 million cardiovascular-related deaths worldwide.

But the new study suggests the World Health Organization’s recommendation might actually be a bit low. In fact, the study found that people who had the lowest risk of death and cardiovascular events consumed between 3 and 6 grams of sodium per day.

Investigators from 18 different countries conducted the study, which followed more than 100,000 people for four years. The researchers assessed people’s salt consumption and potassium consumption and compared this with data on blood pressure, death, heart disease and stroke.

The researchers did find consuming high amounts of sodium — more than 5 grams per day — dramatically raised blood pressure, which is associated with heart failure, stroke and heart attack. But the researchers also found that the positive effect of low sodium intake on blood pressure is only modest, and that there are risks associated with having too little sodium.

Sodium could temper hormones that are associated with risk of heart attack and death. The scientists also say potassium lowers blood pressure, and introducing potassium is an often ignored approach. Potassium is included in many salt substitutes.

Not surprisingly, a balanced approach with lots of fruits and vegetables and modest sodium intake seemed to have the greatest benefit in lowering blood pressure, according to the research.

So next time you want to indulge in a piece of salted caramel, be sure to balance it with a healthy, veggie-filled meal.