Is salt unhealthy?
So far it has been said that salt is unhealthy and people should be careful with their salt intake. But researchers have now found that salt may not be as harmful to health as has been claimed so far. Campaigns to reduce salt intake appear to be only worthwhile, according to the experts, only in countries with a very high sodium consumption such as China.
In their current study, scientists at McMaster University in Canada found that salt does not appear to be as harmful to health as was previously thought. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "The Lancet".
How much salt should people consume per day?
The World Health Organization WHO recommends reducing sodium intake to no more than two grams per day. This corresponds to an amount of around five grams of salt. Salt is associated with increased blood pressure, which in turn is associated with strokes. However, the recommendations for salt consumption are difficult to implement. In countries like the United Kingdom and the United States, it makes no sense to make such a recommendation, the experts explain.
More than 90,000 people took part in the study
The current study included more than 90,000 people from 18 countries. The results sparked a real dispute over the consumption of salt among doctors and experts. So far, many have been convinced that salt consumption should be reduced to almost zero if possible.
Moderate salt intake could have a protective effect
The scientists found that the harmful effects of sodium (increased risk of high blood pressure and stroke) only occur in countries like China, where the generous use of soy sauce leads to sodium levels of over five grams per day. This corresponds to a quantity of salt of 12 grams. The experts found that very low salt levels actually led to more heart attacks and deaths, suggesting that moderate salt intake could be protective.
The body needs sodium and other essential nutrients
With the current study, there is growing evidence that sodium with moderate intake plays a positive role in cardiovascular health, but plays a more harmful role with very high or very low intake, the doctors explain. The body needs essential nutrients like sodium, but the question is how much of it it needs.
What were the limitations of the study?
The latest observational study compared different groups of people and dealt with communities rather than individuals, which led to fierce criticism. The main criticism was that the study did not accurately measure the amount of sodium in people's urine. Such an exact measurement would have to be carried out over a period of 24 hours.
Campaigns to reduce salt intake have been partially successful
Campaigns to reduce salt intake have been beneficial in some countries. Salt intake in the United Kingdom has decreased from over 12 g per day to 7 to 8 g per day in the past 30 years, which has been associated with a decrease in the average blood pressure of the population, the doctors explain. Japan used to have a very high prevalence of high blood pressure and strokes, and measures were also taken there in the 1970s to reduce salt intake. The rates of high blood pressure and strokes are correspondingly lower these days. (As)