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    Americans Still Reaching for the Salt Shaker

    Study Shows No Reduction in U.S. Salt Intake Over the Past 4 Decades

    Sodium Intake Study continued...

    The American Heart Association recommends all Americans limit sodium consumption to no more that 1500 mg a day.

    Bernstein and Willett note in the report that the prevalence of high blood pressure over the past 20 years has risen in the U.S. population and that higher dietary sodium is a factor in the development of hypertension. Overweight and obesity are also important factors.

    The researchers cite computer simulation models finding that population-wide declines in sodium intake would decrease cardiovascular disease as well as costs, but say that only a few studies to prove that have been done.

    Even so, the Harvard researchers support lowering sodium for all. ''We would support the recommendation for 1,500 milligrams a day," Bernstein says. "We would suggest lower intake for all."

    The ‘Set Point’ Idea

    The new review supports the idea of the body having a ''set point'' for sodium, says McCarron. "Your salt intake is a value that is really set by the body and physiology," he tells WebMD.

    While most people's sodium intake fluctuates -- one day a high-sodium restaurant meal, the next day more salads and fruits -- it evens out, he says.

    The study, he says, suggests the high salt intake found in the U.S. population can't be the fault of the food industry, which has been working to reduce salt content.

    Salt intake, he says, "is a physiologically set number."

    However, he says, "That doesn’t say that certain people shouldn't work very closely to achieve a lower salt intake. Number one would be [those with] cardiovascular disease, with hypertension. Not all with high blood pressure are salt sensitive. It would [also] include some patients with kidney disease."

    But he disagrees with across-the-board recommendations to lower salt. "These blanket recommendations are not safe," he says.

    Industry Perspective

    Morton Satin, vice president of scientific research for the Salt Institute in Alexandria, Va., reviewed the report for WebMD.

    In a blog he wrote in response to the study on his web site, he writes that "the sodium-hypertension link is not what it was quacked up to be!"

    For most of the population, he tells WebMD, ''from a health point of view, there's no justification for cutting back on salt."

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