In nw report likely to fuel debate over the health impacts of too much sodium, researchers have found no evidence that moderate cuts to salt intake reduce the risk of developing heart disease or dying prematurely.
In a review of seven trials enrolling 6,489 participants published by The Cochrane Library, scientists found that while cutting salt intake did lead to slight reductions in blood pressure, that was not translated into lower death or heart disease risk.
The researchers said they suspected that trials conducted so far were not big enough to show any benefits to heart health, and called for large-scale studies to be carried out soon. The people in the trials we analyzed only reduced their salt intake by a moderate amount, so the effect on blood pressure and heart disease was not large.
Most experts are agreed that consuming too much salt is not good for you and that cutting salt intake can reduce hypertension in people with normal and high blood pressure.
But while previous trials have suggested there is a blood pressure benefit from lower salt intake, research has yet to show whether that translates into better overall heart health in the wider population.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure, heart attacks and stroke, which are the world's number one killers.
Many developed nations have government-sanctioned guidelines calling on people to cut their sodium intake for the sake of their longer-term health. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists reducing salt intake among its top 10 "best buys" for reducing rates of chronic disease.
In Britain, the National Institute of Health and Clinical Guidance (NICE) has called for an acceleration of the reduction in salt in the general population from a maximum intake of 6 grams(g) a day for adults by 2015 to 3g by 2025.
Canadian guidelines recommend Americans consume less than 2.3 grams (2300 milligrams) of sodium daily, or 1.5 grams (1500 milligrams) for people at risk for high blood pressure or heart disease.
The scientists think they would need to have data from at least 18,000 people before they could expect to identify any clear health benefits.
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