Researchers question salt guidelines for diabetics

February 22, 2011 in Diabetes & Diabetes Prevention, Nutrition Topics in the News

Researchers question salt guidelines for diabetics
New study findings from Australian researchers are challenging current guidelines that urge diabetics to cut back on salt in their diet.

The new study found diabetic patients with the highest levels of sodium in their urine had the smallest risk of dying over a 10-year period.

To investigate, researchers from the University of Melbourne in Victoria studied 638 people with longstanding type 2 diabetes, often accompanied by heart disease and high blood pressure.

At the outset of the study, all the patients were in their 60s and nearly half of them were obese.

All of the patients were treated at a single diabetes clinic, and doctors determined their salt intake at the outset of the study by measuring the daily amount of sodium in their urine.

The average amount of sodium in their urine, 4.2 grams per day, was in line with earlier global surveys, the researchers say.

Over the next ten years, 175 study participants died, mostly due to heart disease.

Researchers found that for every extra 2.3 grams of sodium in the urine, the risk of dying during the study dropped by 28 percent, even after accounting for kidney disease, age and other factors likely to be important.

Researchers say the findings were unexpected, and raise the possibility that in people with type 2 diabetes, low salt intake is not always beneficial.

While the findings are certainly surprising, they don't mean you should ignore advice to limit your salt intake if you have diabetes.  Further studies are needed before current recommendations and guidelines can be changed.

While the body needs some sodium to function properly, too much may lead to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke, heart disease and kidney disease - diseases that diabetics are at a high risk of developing.  Currently most Canadians get far more sodium than they need, in fact it's estimated that the average adults consumes more than 3,000 mg of sodium daily, more than double the level recommended for proper health.

The study findings were published in the journal Diabetes Care.

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