January 01, 2012
Lower Safe Sodium Limit Higher Than Previously Believed?

Somehow missed this study a month ago. Below 3 grams (3000 milligrams) of sodium per day is linked to a higher incidence of congestive heart failure.

For years doctors have warned that too much salt is bad for your heart. Now a new McMaster University study suggests that both high and low levels of salt intake may put people with heart disease or diabetes at increased risk of cardiovascular complications.

This is good news for olive lovers. Looking at a 19 oz bottle of pitted Greek Kalamata olives I see it has a total of 8.4 grams of salt in the 140 olives, presumably more in the water. For someone who eats very little in the way of processed foods and who has few other sources of sodium in their diet it seems quite safe to eat, say, 20 olives a day since that will be only 1.2 grams of sodium. This study found that eating below 3 grams of sodium per day appears to increase the risk of congestive heart failure. Since I don't even manage to eat 20 olives per day I'm thinking more ketchup might be called for. Gotta get that sodium somehow. A quick check shows that the dark chocolate from Trader Joes has no sodium in it. So can't get it that way.

Moderation is best. Yet again. How frustrating for the extremists among us.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) today, found that moderate salt intake was associated with the lowest risk of cardiovascular events, while a higher intake of sodium was associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular events and a low intake was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular death and hospitalization for congestive heart failure.

Most people still probably eat too much processed food and therefore this report isn't a license for most people to eat more sodium. But if you do manage to cut back your fast food and other processed food consumption it might be time for some supplementary olive eating or use of ketchup on baked potatoes.

So are current guidelines too low? One can't be sure from a single study. But the case against moderate sodium consumption has been weakened by this result.

Compared with moderate sodium excretion (between 4 to 5.99 grams per day), the researchers found that sodium excretion of greater than seven grams per day was associated with an increased risk of all cardiovascular events, and sodium excretion of less than three grams per day was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular death and hospitalization for congestive heart failure.

The findings call into question current guidelines for salt intake, which recommend less than 2.3 grams (or 2,300 mg) per day. The guidelines are mostly based on previous clinical trials that found blood pressure is lowered modestly when sodium intake is reduced to this level (which was also found in the present study). However, there are no large studies looking at whether such low levels of sodium intake reduce the incidence of heart attacks and stroke.

Got any good ideas for higher sodium but healthy foods?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 January 01 11:23 AM  Aging Diet Heart Studies

bbartlog said at January 1, 2012 6:48 PM:

Salt your food? I also eat very little processed food, but I salt the water I cook pasta in, add salt liberally to fried potatoes, also to ground beef when I make hamburgers from it or vegetables when I saute them.
Also of interest in this study was that they didn't find the upper limit where potassium stops being beneficial (in decreasing stroke risk).
I would have been happier if they had studied all-cause mortality rather than just certain kinds of illness, though. Insufficient salt intake can be hazardous for the elderly because it may lead to mineral imbalances and dehydration.

Joel said at January 3, 2012 11:19 AM:


E.N. said at January 3, 2012 12:08 PM:

Watch any movie where a dog dies in the end (even Cujo), then lick from your cheeks your own salty tears.

old one said at January 3, 2012 12:18 PM:

The nanny state food fascists who have been railing and legislating with the help of power hungry statist against salt, eggs, and dozens of other food products are being unrelentingly exposed as clueless clowns by real scientific findings.
We should keep clearly in mind that many if not most of the same statist totalitarians are also working ceaselessly to ram the gorebull of global warming down our throats whittling away our freedoms as they attempt to reinstall socialist feudalism with their new world order disquised with the words it's good for you with themselves as the ruling elite, the new lords & ladies.

Sennin said at January 3, 2012 12:19 PM:

Notice the use of the term "...associated with..." Correlation does not equal causation. If your body needs salt, it will tell you. Pay attention. If your body doesn't need salt, it will tell you. Pay attention.

Tim McD said at January 3, 2012 12:23 PM:

Amazing. My heart surgeon told me 5 years ago, after my triple bypass, to aim for 3 to 4000 mg per day, as the 2400 recommendation was too low for active people.

lakelevel said at January 3, 2012 1:53 PM:

Scientific American says reducing salt intake does not decrease risk of heart disease and stroke: link

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