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Nutrition News: Salt and Cardiovascular Risk

Charlyn Fargo on

We need to cut the salt a bit more.

A new National Academies report finds that healthy adults can lower their cardiovascular risk simply by cutting daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams (the amount in 1 teaspoon of salt) and may lower it even more by going as low as 1,500 milligrams.

The authors found moderately strong evidence for both a causal relationship and a dose-response relationship between sodium and cardiovascular disease, hypertension, systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.

Further reducing sodium intake within the 2,300 to 1,500 mg/d range for adults had randomized controlled trial evidence for lowering blood pressure but weak evidence of reducing in chronic disease risk.

The report aligns with what the American Heart Association and other prominent public health organizations have been saying for years: We must eat less salt.

The AHA likewise recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams a day, with an "ideal limit" of no more than 1,500 milligrams for most adults.

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Because Americans average 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily, the National Academies' report indicated little concern about insufficiency but still set adequate intake levels for various age groups. These levels ranged from 1,500 milligrams per day for people ages 14 years and older down to 110 milligrams daily for infants 6 months and younger. The adequate intake levels decreased for children ages 1 to 13 years and increased for adults ages 51 years and older.

Most of us have put down the saltshaker, but Americans still average 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily. The hidden salt is in foods we eat out; processed foods such as bacon, ham, sausage; and commercially prepared foods.

"For the desired public health benefit of reduced sodium intake to be achieved, more attention must be paid by industry to reducing sodium in the food supply and by consumers who have the needed sodium content information and an understanding of how to make health-inspired food choices," says Dr. Virginia Stallings of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, in a preface to the National Academies report.

Stallings and Nancy Brown, the CEO of the AHA, are encouraging the Food and Drug Administration to release voluntary sodium reduction targets for the food industry.

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