Americans Advised to Cut Salt, Follow Thirst
Report Lowers Recommended Salt Intake, Eases Water Rules
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.