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Studies Question Need to Watch Your Salt

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Findings Question Current Advice on Salt continued...

“Making recommendations like this to everybody needs to be backed up by very robust data. What our data and other data are showing, consistent with the recommendation last year from the Institute of Medicine, is that there’s a lot of uncertainty,” O’Donnell says.

The 2013 report from the Institute of Medicine also concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to support lowering sodium below 2,300 milligrams per day, and experts declined to identify a “healthy” range for sodium.

“Should we be making such a sweeping recommendation at a population level where there is so much uncertainty?” O’Donnell says.

O’Donnell says there are still many other important questions to answer about sodium, like whether men and women need different amounts, and whether the climate you live in changes your body’s sodium requirements. 

He says his team hopes to have answers on some of those within the next few years.

For its part, the American Heart Association sees no reason to change its advice.

“There are significant limitations here. We don’t have confidence that there really is a signal of harm with a reduction of sodium in the diet,” says Elliott Antman, MD, president of the American Heart Association.

“We are not moved by these studies with respect to our position,” Antman says. “We maintain our position that there should be a lower sodium content in the American diet.”

Some Still Need to Watch Salt

The advice to breathe easy on salt doesn’t apply to everyone, however. 

“If you are older, over age 55 or 60, if you have hypertension, or if you are obese -- any one of those things -- you need to take a look at what you’re eating and try to reduce your intake of prepared foods and obviously things that have a lot of salt in them,” Oparil says.

All three studies found stronger links between sodium and blood pressure in people who were older and those who already had high blood pressure. 

Plus, Oparil says people who are obese become much more sensitive to salt.

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