Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Weight Loss & Diet Plans

Font Size

Americans Advised to Cut Salt, Follow Thirst

Report Lowers Recommended Salt Intake, Eases Water Rules
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Medical News

Feb. 11, 2004 -- A new report urges Americans to drastically cut back on salt in their diet but eases the rules on water intake by saying most people can simply let "thirst be their guide."

But don't drop that water bottle or saltshaker yet.

The report, issued today by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, says that most healthy Americans meet their daily hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide, rather than by following the old "eight to nine glasses a day" rule.

On salt, the report calls for healthy 19-to 50-year olds to limit themselves to 1.5 grams of sodium and 2.3 grams of chloride each day, which is the equivalent of 3.8 grams of salt. Previous government guidelines set the recommended sodium amount at 2.4 grams of sodium. Most sodium in the diet is consumed in the form of sodium chloride (salt).

This recommend intake does not apply to highly active people such as endurance athletes who lose large amounts of sweat on a daily basis. For older adults and the elderly, the limits are 1.3 grams/day for men and women aged 50-70 years and 1.2 grams for those 71 years and older.

The report is the sixth in a series from the Institute of Medicine and contains nutrient recommendations for water, potassium, sodium, chloride, and sulfate. Researchers say the study highlights the fact that the typical American diet is too high in sodium and too low in potassium, which increases the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease.

Fulfilling Your Thirst

The report doesn't specify exact requirements for water intake, but it does make general recommendations of 91 ounces per day for women and 125 ounces for men of total water per day, which actually translates to a few glasses more than eight glasses a day.

But in a change from the past, the panel loosened the requirements on how people can meet those recommendations, allowing caffeinated beverages, such as soda and coffee, and food to count toward total water intake. Although caffeine has been thought to have a diuretic effect, researchers say studies show that effect is only temporary.

They say that although low intake of water has been associated with some chronic diseases, there is not enough evidence to establish water intake recommendations as a means to reduce the risks of chronic disease.

"We don't offer any rule of thumb based on how many glasses of water people should drink each day because our hydration needs can be met through a variety of sources in addition to drinking water," says panel chairman Lawrence Appel, MD, MPH, in a news release. "While drinking water is a frequent choice for hydration, people also get water from juice, milk, coffee, tea, soda, fruits, vegetables, and other foods and beverages as well.

Today on WebMD

Woman trying clothes / dress
Woman looking at reflection in mirror
Hot cup of coffee
woman shopping fresh produce
butter curl on knife
eating out healthy
Smiling woman, red hair
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
What Girls Need To Know About Eating Disorders
teen squeezing into jeans
fitfor Teens

Special Sections