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Americans Advised to Cut Salt, Follow Thirst

Report Lowers Recommended Salt Intake, Eases Water Rules

Fulfilling Your Thirst continued...

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.

"Moreover, we concluded that on a daily basis, people get adequate amounts of water from normal drinking behavior -- consumption of beverages at meals and in other social situations -- and by letting their thirst guide them," says Appel, who is also professor of medicine, epidemiology, and international health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Following your thirst may work for healthy, sedentary adults, but experts say there are also important exceptions to that rule.

"If you're active, participating in exercise, living in an environment that's a little bit warmer or drier, then I think you'll have to look at more physiological signs as opposed to looking at thirst," says Jackie Berning, PhD, RD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

"You have to look at the color of your urine," says Berning, who is associate professor of nutrition at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. "If it's that dark apple juice color, then despite the fact that you're not thirsty, you've got to put more fluids in."

Berning says that among active people, dehydration is the No. 1 danger she sees. If someone is not optimally hydrated, any type of stress, such as a change in altitude, activity, or temperature, could put their health at risk.

Pass on Salt, Reach for Potassium

The report sets a maximum upper limit on salt at 5.8 grams (5,800 mg) per day. But researchers say more than 95% of Canadian men aged 31 to 50 and 75% of American women in that age group regularly consume more salt than that.

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