Monday, May 16, 2011

The Low Salt Diet Puts You at Risk for Heart Disease Study

It's all over the internet. A study published in the May 4th edition of the "Journal of the American Medical Association" (JAMA) claims that following a low-sodium diet now puts you at risk for heart disease.

It makes for a great headline. All these years the doctors, dieticians, nutritionists, and the medical community at large have warned against foods with high sodium content, telling us that too much salt in the diet may lead to hypertension, a condition associated with fatal heart disease.

Now, in 2011, suddenly a study, published in the respected JAMA magazine, says otherwise.

The Harvard School of Medicine newsletter, "The Nutrition Source",  disputes the findings, calling the study flawed. Dr. Walter Willet, who chairs the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, couldn't resist the pun when he is quoted as saying, "Take this study with a huge grain of salt, and then dispose of it properly."

The sampling for the study, titled, "Fatal and Nonfatal Outcomes, Incidence of Hypertension, and Blood Pressure Changes in Relation to Urinary Sodium Excretion"  consisted of only 3,681 participants, none of which could be considered a part of the "at risk" group: over 40 years of age, overweight, and leading a sedentary lifestyle. In other words, the study group was made up of what should have been the control group.

The methodology is also faulty. The researchers didn't monitor the participants' actual salt intake on a daily basis, nor did it account for height and weight differences, among other standards in such studies.

Out of the 3,681 people studied over an 8 year period, 84 people died of heart disease. That's 2 percent. Since all the participants were on a low sodium diet, the researchers concluded that a low-sodium diet leads to heart disease.

And this was published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association".

So who is singing praises to these faulty findings? The Salt Institute, the trade association for the salt production industry. Lori Roman, president of the Salt Institute, in light of this stunning study, calls on the government to "[]stop their population-wide sodium reduction agenda and amend the Dietary Guidelines on sodium[]." She makes this proclamation against the governments War on Salt from the institute's website.

Because, you know, she's not biased or anything.

A low-sodium diet doesn't mean no-salt. It means monitoring your sodium intake, and keeping it below 2400 mg a day, but no lower than 500 mg a day. And if you are over 40, overweight, and tend to be a body at rest for a good part of the day, eating foods high in sodium and salting everything you eat is going to put a lot of pressure on your heart. Plain and simple.

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