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Can you eat more salt without harm?

Salt_featureA new study about salt consumption is receiving a lot of attention.

Two papers from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology or PURE study estimate sodium and potassium intake based on a single fasting morning urine specimen in more than 100,000 adults from 18 countries. Participants were followed for 3.7 years.

Researchers report on the relationship between estimated sodium and potassium levels on blood pressure levels and on death and cardiovascular events, a Forbes article said.

The PURE researchers suggest there might not be benefits to a moderate- or low-sodium diet.

The studies are reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Bonnie F. Liebman, nutrition director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the results of the PURE studies shouldn’t change advice by health authorities – such as the American Heart Association and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – to consume less salt to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“The PURE studies suffer from serious shortcomings,” Liebman said.

She points out three problems:

1. The O’Donnell study might have found a higher risk of cardiovascular events and death among those consuming the least salt because some of those subjects may have been ill when they entered the study.

2. Only about 14 percent of the participants in the PURE study came from high-income countries such as the United States. About 60 percent came from China, India, and other lower-income countries where other factors might have altered sodium intakes and the risk of dying. There’s no evidence that the people who consumed the least sodium were doing so to protect their health.

3. Liebman said a third study in the same journal issue describes the massive toll caused by high-sodium diets and indicates why it’s important for health officials around the world to institute policies to reduce sodium consumption.

“Americans are consuming about 4,000 mg of sodium per day – twice as high as those researchers recommend,” she said. “As a result, tens of thousands of Americans die prematurely every year due to cardiovascular disease.”

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine urged the Food and Drug Administration to set limits on the sodium content of foods.

Liebman said it’s unfortunately the FDA hasn’t done anything to regulate sodium in food.

Copyright 2014, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist



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