If you don’t have heart disease, moderate sodium intake may not be so bad

August 27, 2018 in Healthy Eating, Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

If you don’t have heart disease, moderate sodium intake may not be so bad

Moderate consumption of sodium may not affect the risk for cardiovascular problems in people without heart disease, a 21-country study from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada suggests. 

Researchers tracked nearly 96,000 adults without heart disease for an average of eight years. Even when people consumed more than double the recommended limit of two grams (2000 mg) of sodium per day, they didn’t have a higher risk of serious cardiovascular events like heart attack, stroke or death. 

The exception was in China. There, in 80 percent of communities, the average sodium intake was nearly three times the two-gram limit. Consuming that much was linked to a small increased stroke risk. 

In the study of 255 communities around the world on five continents, the researchers found that sodium was not associated with major cardiovascular disease or mortality. In fact, there was an inverse association with all-cause mortality, so higher sodium (was) related to lower mortality. 

The positive link between sodium and stroke was seen only at very high levels of sodium, above five grams (5000 mg) per day.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1.5 grams of sodium per day for people at risk for heart disease. To prevent heart disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a limit of two grams of sodium daily, which is the amount in roughly one teaspoon of salt. 

About the study

The research team analyzed data on adults ages 35 to 70 in high-, middle- and low-income countries. 

In 80 percent of countries, half of the people consumed an average 3 to 5 grams of sodium per day. But only at the highest end of that range was each additional gram of sodium linked to an increase in systolic blood pressure. (Systolic pressure, the “top” number, reflects pressure in blood vessels when the heart beats.) 

Sodium intake was associated with major cardiovascular events only in communities where half of the people consumed at least 5.75 mg per day. But even here, the association was not statistically significant, meaning the results could have been due to chance. 

“Outside China, most (communities) fall in that 3-to-5 gram per day range,” the lead researcher said. “In that moderate.

There is a need to target communities like in China who are at very high levels of sodium, but in most other parts of the world, most of whom are already at moderate levels, lowering sodium further (would not benefit them) and in fact may even result in harm, stated the lead researcher. It’s better to focus on improving diet quality rather than focusing on a single nutrient like sodium.

Increase potassium intake

The study team did find that in all countries, the risk of cardiovascular events decreased as potassium intake increased. 

Potassium-rich foods include fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, potatoes and dairy products. 

There doesn’t seem to be any reason for people with normal blood pressure to restrict salt intake. The current salt intake in the U.S. population seems acceptable unless you have hypertension,” the lead researcher said. 

Source: The Lancet, online August 11, 2018.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.