Salt and your heart health Part III: What the skeptics have to say

March 16, 2010 by  

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 Now, it wouldn’t be fair if we don’t tell you what the other side has to say, the other side being the few who are not fully convinced that salt reduction in our diet is warranted for. Thus, this third part is dedicated to what these skeptics have to say.

When I wrote about the salt-reduction efforts in Portugal last June 2009, one reader (Geeta) wrote the following comment:

“Portugal’s PAASH campaign for mass education is indeed a valuable example of the power of media and its need in health education. As we become a technology savvy world, public health campaigns have to learn to effectively communicate their messages through the wide array of media outlets.

The campaign though phenomenal in its reach to 75% of the Portuguese population, I would be interested in the final effects of salt restriction on the hypertension in Portugal. The moment we tag an essential mineral as the primary cause for a disease state like hypertension there is cause for concern. We did it with fats and now it’s salt. Controlled studies on the success of effective long term maintenance of salt restriction by the Portuguese and its effects on the hypertension in the country would be valuable to our understanding of salt and its effects in the human body.

Studies show that most people are not sensitive to salt. Experimental studies of adults with normal blood pressure revealed that a salt restricted diet caused a drop in blood pressure in some but in others to rise. For the majority of cases there was negligible if any change.

For accurate information on salt intake and health please visit

Point taken, Geeta. Indeed, I checked out the abovementioned site which contains a wealth of resources about salt.

Michael Alderman, editor of the American Journal of Hypertension wrote in 2000:

The question, therefore, is whether the beneficial hypotensive effects of sodium restriction will outweigh its hazards. Unfortunately, few data link sodium intake to health outcomes, and that which is available is inconsistent. Without knowledge of the sum of the multiple effects of a reduced sodium diet, no single universal prescription for sodium intake can be scientifically justified.”

More recently, he stated heartwire:

“In folks with a diet like that in the US, there are some studies that show an inverse association—less salt, more heart attacks—so the data are conflicting, and it’s a problem.”

John Mariani wrote in 2008:

This isn’t to say that salt is safe for everyone. Studies show that 30 percent of the Americans who have high blood pressure would greatly benefit from a low-sodium diet. But that’s about 10 percent of the overall population — the rest of us are fine with sodium. And drastically cutting out sodium may actually hurt some people.”

There accusations flying around that these skeptics may have some involvement the Salt Institute, a non-profit trade association whose members are salt producers and sellers. Salt Health (e.g. the site mentioned by Geeta above) is a project of the Salt Institute. The Institute claims it is “dedicated to sound science and is a presentation of accurate research condensed for consumers seeking accurate and reliable information.”

Well, readers, the salt debate will get more heated in the coming months. I just hope I gave you enough food for thought in the series to enable you to think objectively and make informed decisions.

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