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The salt debate - is less really best?

Published : Wednesday July 18, 2012 | Posted in : General Health
Person pours salt

Salt has long been considered the enemy of a healthy heart, as excessive intake is one of the main causes for high blood pressure, which can lead to complications such as heart attack, stroke and aneurysms. Such are the benefits of decreasing salt intake that the government now wants to further cut the recommended daily amount from 6g to just 3g.

However, experts are now suggesting that not consuming enough salt could be just as dangerous as consuming too much. A paper published recently in the American Journal of Hypertension suggests that driving salt intake down to below 6.25g per day could increase the risk of heart attack.

A study into the effects of salt in the body was undertaken by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, who found that there are properties in salt which can also reduce levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, fats which increase risks of heart disease and diabetes.

The reliability of the results is questionable due to the lead researcher’s affiliation with the salt industry. In the 1990s, Dr Michael Alderman was paid by the Salt Institute, where he has been an advisor for over 10 years. But Dr. Alderman said: “I have had no other money from the Salt Institute, or any other commercial interest involved in salt. In short, I have no conflict of interest.”

Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Consensus Action on Salt and Health contradicted Dr Allderman’s view by saying that “he has been campaigning against salt reduction for many years and he has worked closely with the Salt Institute. These claims are nothing new and are based on poor evidence.”

Although the health benefits of decreasing salt intake are well known, there is little evidence to suggest that it will actively lower the number of deaths. Professor Rod Taylor, from Exeter university said: “With governments setting ever lower targets for salt intake, it’s really important that we do some large research trials to get a full understanding of the benefits and risks of reducing salt intake.”

salt food

So what conclusion can we arrive at based on these contradictory opinions from different experts? If you are suffering from high blood pressure, your doctor will advise you to lower your salt intake as much as possible. If you are currently healthy but looking to prevent any heart conditions in the future, you should avoid saturated fats and processed food, which often have added salt.

These types of food will be a lot more harmful to your heart than a sprinkling of salt on your salad or vegetables. As with many things, the experts are divided on the issue of how the amount of salt we ingest affect our health, so for people with no known heart condition the best thing to do is to make your diet healthier, and the reduction in salt intake will come naturally.

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