Sack the Salt, Experts Say
Fast-food quips aside, Sacks says the study has serious public health
implications. Restricting salt and switching to a healthy diet could
"result in a 20% reduction in the prevalence of heart attacks and 35%
reduction in strokes," he says. Those reductions would be seen in people
with and without high blood pressure, he says.
It is possible, Sacks says, that "a person taking blood pressure
medications may be able to reduce their reliance on medications by switching to
this diet," he says. For example, a person taking two drugs to control
blood pressure might be able to discontinue one of the medications, Sacks
Vollmer tells WebMD that the take-home message is "to eat fewer
processed foods." He says, however, that it's best to take a realistic
approach. He suggests, for example, that whole foods be prepared without salt
during the cooking process and that salt should be added when the foods are
served. He says that the researchers found that cooking with salt doesn't
improve taste but does leave harmful amounts of salt behind. "We found that
adding the salt after preparation can satisfy the 'taste for salt,' but uses
less salt to do so," Vollmer says. He says that people may initially find
food less tasty, but after a few days when the body becomes used to less last,
most people will begin to complain about the salty taste when served foods
seasoned the "normal" way.
Obarzanek says that the study findings suggest that "obviously, salted
foods, such as potato chips, have no place in a healthy diet. We need to teach
people to read labels to find out sodium content, and we need to get the food
industry on board to make more low-sodium foods available," she says.
- Studies show most people eat 3,300 mg of salt daily. The U.S. government
recommends Americans limit salt intake to 2,400 mg a day. But researchers say
keeping salt consumption to 1,500 mg a day can reduce blood pressure and
possibly allow patients to stop blood pressure medication.
- The researchers say cutting back on salt helps your health regardless of
your age, sex, or race. For maximum results, researchers urge people to combine
low-salt diet with a lot of fruit and vegetables and avoid processed foods,
which tend to be loaded with salt.
- The changes in lifestyle could translate into significant reductions in
heart attacks and strokes -- both in people who have high blood pressure and
those who don't.