A study regarding the risks of a low sodium diet was recently featured in The Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal. The study, conducted by Andrew Mente and colleagues, yielded surprising data, leaving the researchers questioning the current sodium recommendations. It is commonly known that consuming high amounts of sodium may lead to increased risk of heart problems. However, the data resulting from this study indicate that, compared with an average salt intake, a low sodium intake might increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and even death. This raises the question: are the current guidelines too low?
Currently, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming no more than 1 teaspoon a day, which is equal to 2,300 milligrams. This number is fairly easy to achieve, which makes a strict low-sodium diet difficult to maintain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top sources of sodium include: breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, meat dishes, and snacks. The CDC released a report disclosing that 90% of Americans consume more sodium than recommended.
For this study, Andrew Mente and his colleagues studied data from 130,000 people worldwide, focusing on the relationship between sodium intake and heart problems. Regardless of high blood pressure, those who consumed low amounts of sodium (less than 3,000mg/day) had higher rates of heart attack, stroke, and death. Only the hypertensive participants consuming a high sodium diet (more than 6,000mg/day) were subject to the risks of a high sodium diet. After analyzing their findings, the authors believe the current sodium guidelines are too low, but recommend those with hypertension refrain from a high sodium intake.