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Most Americans Should Eat Less Salt: Report

But too little salt may also cause health problems, report authors add

continued...

"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.

The Salt Institute welcomed the finding that too little salt might actually harm health.

"It is good to see that this report cautions against drastic sodium reduction efforts to get people to consume dangerously low levels of sodium of 1,500 mg a day," Morton Satin, vice president of science and research at the institute, said in a statement. "There is no scientific justification for population-wide sodium reduction to such low levels, and the recognition by the IOM experts that such low levels may cause harm may help steer overzealous organizations away from reckless recommendations."

The Institute of Medicine provides independent, objective, evidence-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector, and the public.

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