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