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Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

Most Americans Should Eat Less Salt: Report

But too little salt may also cause health problems, report authors add
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Only about 11 percent of the salt people eat comes from the salt shaker, added IOM committee member Dr. Joachim Ix, an associate professor of medicine at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System in California.

"The lion's share of salt that's consumed is in the food people are taking in already. A large part of that is in processed foods and foods eaten outside of the home," Ix noted.

Another expert agreed.

"We usually think of sodium as table salt," said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. "But many foods are unexpectedly high in sodium, including sweets, breads and cereals," she noted.

"Over two-thirds of the sodium in our diet comes from processed foods like canned soups, frozen pizzas, baked goods, frozen meals, instant anything, and deli and restaurant foods," Heller added.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that lowering sodium intake could prevent thousands of deaths a year, Heller said.

"Choosing more whole, unprocessed foods that we cook at home can go a long way towards cutting the salt," Heller suggested. "Compare labels. For example: some breakfast cereals have as much as 290 mg of sodium per serving compared with others that have 0 mg per serving. Instead of salt, perk up at-home meals with lemon, vinegars, herbs, spices, jalapenos, garlic and onions."

However, after reviewing the evidence for the current salt intake recommendations, the committee found there were problems with the studies, including how they were conducted and the small number of cases where salt actually played a role in a health outcome, Strom said.

The IOM committee did, however, conclude:

  • High salt consumption is linked to an increased risk for heart disease.
  • There is no conclusive evidence that consuming 2,300 mg of salt a day either increases or decreases the risk for heart disease, stroke or death.
  • Too little salt could raise the risk for further heart problems among those being treated for heart failure.
  • There is no compelling evidence that people with diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, hypertension or borderline hypertension, or those who are aged 51 or older or who are black should reduce their salt consumption to 1,500 mg or less a day.
  • More research is needed to determine whether 1,500 to 2,300 mg of salt a day is optimal.

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