Salt Or Not For Heart Health?

By: CBS News (Posted by Melissa Brunner)
By: CBS News (Posted by Melissa Brunner)

(CBS) Cutting back on salt might not be all it's cracked up to be for heart health. A new study suggests reducing dietary salt intake may actually raise several risk factors for heart disease.

"I can't really see, if you look at the total evidence, that there is any reason to believe there is a net benefit of decreasing sodium intake in the general population," study author Dr. Niels Graudal, a senior consultant at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, told Reuters.

Previous research has shown that cutting back on salt lowers blood pressure, so it has long been assumed that reducing sodium would also prevent cardiovascular disease and stroke. To find out for sure, Dutch researchers reviewed 167 salt studies, but looked at other factors related to heart health besides blood pressure.

What did the researchers uncover? Reducing salt intake did lower blood pressure as expected, but it caused a 2.5 percent increase in cholesterol and a 7 percent increase in triglycerides. The researchers also found dietary salt reduction caused kidneys to produce more enzymes and hormones that regulate the body's salt levels, which in turn cause the body to retain more salt. All these increases were considered significant, and could be harmful for cardiovascular health, the researchers said.

The researchers' bottom line?

"In my opinion, people should generally not worry about their salt intake," Graudal told HealthDay.

The findings are published in the Nov. 9 issue of the American Journal of Hypertension.

In July, another review found "no clear benefit" to cutting back salt, saying it did not reduce the likelihood of dying from heart disease or having a heart attack, CBS News reported.

Some experts disputed the new study.

"Over 50 public health organizations can't be wrong on this one," Dr. Lawrence Appel, professor of medicine, epidemiology, and international health at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, told WebMD.

Should Americans stay put when it comes to their salt intake?

"Certainly I would not tell my patients not to lower their sodium because it might then raise your cholesterol," Dr. Tara Narula, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told WebMD. "I'd be hard pressed to find other cardiologists who would say that based on this study that they would not recommend low-sodium diets to people, especially those that have hypertension and heart failure."

The CDC recommends a daily sodium intake for Americans of 2,300 mg a day and also recommends that certain groups consume 1,500 mg or less each day, including Americans over 51 years old, African-Americans, and people with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.


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