July 13, 2016

The Salt Controversy Won't Go Away

Even though this article says salt intake has become a major health concern in the United States, the main concern should be the lack of clear and good science in how salt affects the body for the different age groups and with different health problems. Whenever one point is pushed, everyone has to add their point of the argument and there is some science behind their points, but very poor science.

From reading the article several times, the one part that keeps rearing its head is what is the correct amount for salt consumption. This is where everyone disagrees. Most people have their numbers picked out and will not agree to any other number for salt intake. All the following are for one day.
  • American Heart Association – 1500 milligrams
  • Dietary Guidelines for Americans – 2300 milligrams
  • Most US adults – more than 3400 milligrams
  • Food and Drug Administration – 2300 milligrams
  • Institute of Medicine – 2300 milligrams
  • Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) – want more research
Earlier this month, the FDA issued draft guidelines for the reduction of sodium in processed foods, which accounts for around 75 percent of all salt consumption.
These guidelines aim to lower salt intake for consumers to the recommended level of 2,300 milligrams daily. This is proposed to reduce the health risks associated with high salt consumption.

How much sodium is in your food?
  • A single slice of bread contains anywhere from 80-230 milligrams of sodium
  • Some breakfast cereals can contain up to 300 milligrams of sodium before milk is added
  • One slice of frozen pizza can contain 370-730 milligrams of sodium.
It is well known that the body needs some salt; it is important for nerve and muscle function, and it helps regulate bodily fluids.

One study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism last year, even suggested that salt consumption could stave off harmful bacteria and reduce the risk of infection.

There are many studies on salt, but few are definitive. Most have an agenda or bias in the way they were done. Some of the problems discovered include:
  • Numerous studies have indicated that consuming too much salt can increase the risk of serious health problems.
  • Research links high salt intake to hypertension, stroke, and heart disease.
  • A study earlier this year also suggested a high-salt diet may cause liver damage.
  • Another study linked high salt intake to increased risk of multiple sclerosis (MS).
  • A study last month suggested that even 3,000 milligrams of sodium daily may be too little and could put health at risk. It found that adults who consumed less than 3,000 milligrams of salt a day were at greater risk of heart attack, stroke, and premature death than those with an average sodium intake. The team questioned the health risks of high salt intake, finding that it was only adults who already had high blood pressure who were at greater risk of heart disease and stroke with high salt intake - defined as 6,000 milligrams daily.
  • Another 2014 study found that reducing salt intake to less than 2,500 milligrams a day was not linked to reduced risk of the health conditions associated with high salt consumption.
Despite such findings, the FDA concludes there is an "overwhelming body of scientific evidence" that reducing daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams can prevent the health risks of a high-salt diet. All government agencies are in agreement that people should consume less than 2300 milligrams of salt.

While it seems many health experts are in support of government strategies to reduce salt intake among the general public, others say more research should be conducted on the long-term health effects of low-salt diets before making recommendations.

Additionally, many researchers and organizations - including the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) - believe further research is required to pinpoint the exact salt intake that is most beneficial for health.

"Like others inside and outside of government, we believe additional work is needed to determine the acceptable range of sodium intake for optimal health," says Leon Bruner, chief science officer of the GMA. "This evaluation should include research that indicates health risks for people who consume too much sodium as well as health risks from consuming too little sodium."

What surprises me the most is the way everyone is entrenched in their belief and won't consider other opinions and even many studies, flawed or not. The other objection I have is most will not consider ethnic groups and their salt needs or sensitivity. A one-size-fits-all approach is even adding more folly to the entrenched positions. A mentioned need is studies by age and comorbidities. This could help in conjunction with the different ethnic groups to determine salt needs.

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