In a recent New York Times article, award-winning science journalist Gary Taubes describes the considerable efforts and expenditures made by government public health agencies to support and promote salt restriction, despite clinical evidence which does not support population-wide salt reduction strategies.
According to Taubes, a flood of new research published in the last two years has not only shown the health benefits of salt but also revealed the risks of low-sodium diets.
“There was no disputing that salt is a natural, no-calorie and tasty nutrient essential for life, but the biggest nutrition story in recent years is the proof that following the government’s low salt advice could actually shorten your life,” says Lori Roman, president of the Salt Institute.
Within the past year, peer-reviewed medical studies have documented:
Type 1 diabetes risk: In one Australian study on patients with type 1 diabetes, low sodium intake was independently associated with increased all-cause mortality and ESRD (end-stage renal disease).
Type 2 diabetes risk: In another Australian study with type 2 diabetes patients, lower sodium consumption was associated with increased all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.
No cardiovascular benefit to salt reduction: A study published in the American Journal of Hypertension showed that eating less salt will not prevent heart attacks, strokes or early death. On the contrary, low-sodium diets increased the likelihood of premature death.
Increased risk of illness and death: The Journal of the American Medical Association published a multi-year study on a very large cohort that concluded that lower salt intakes resulted in higher morbidity and mortality.
Negative effects of low-salt intakes: An analysis of 167 studies showed that individuals placed on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines-recommended salt levels experienced significant increases in plasma renin, aldosterone, adrenaline, noradrenaline, cholesterol, and triglycerides – all risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Health risk of current U.S. Dietary Guidelines: In a Journal of the American Medical Association publication, an analysis of the association between sodium intakes and cardiovascular events in almost 29,000 adults, showed that CV risk was increased among those with the lowest levels, equivalent to the current recommendations in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.
Nutritional risk of current U.S. Dietary Guidelines: The American Journal of Preventative Medicine published an article demonstrating that following the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for salt will result in unbalanced and unsustainable dietary choices.
It is well documented that the Japanese and the Swiss enjoy among the longest life expectancy rates of any of the world’s population groups. Less known, however, is that they are also among the highest rates of salt consumption. Comparing the available data on salt consumption and longevity around the world indicates that if we were to actually consume the low levels of salt recommended in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, our life expectancy figures would drop dramatically.
Taubes is far from the only journalist to have questioned the government’s policy on salt. Scientific American reviewed the studies and summarized its findings in the headline, “It’s time to end the war on salt.