According to a new study, low salt intake does not prevent hypertension and raises heart attack and stroke risk. However, some of its limitations have exacerbated the salt debate to new heights. Even CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) officials commented on this new European study, saying it had some flaws. It is highly unusual for the CDC to comment on studies.

According to Dr. Peter Briss, a CDC medical director, the small study included young participants. He added that there were not enough cardiovascular events to draw conclusions from. He suggested the study be taken with a grain of salt.

Researchers from the University of Leuven, Belgium, measured urinary salt (sodium) levels in 3,681 individuals over an eight-year period. Of the total, 1,499 completed every scheduled urine test. When the study began, none of them had any cardiovascular disease. 2,096 had normal blood pressure levels at the start of the study.

They found that those with lower salt intake over the eight year period had a higher risk of heart attack and stroke, compared to those with a high salt intake – completely the opposite to what we are told.

Click here to read about the study.

Dr. Briss added that the participants with less salt intake provided less urine than the higher salt consumers – this could mean that not all their urine had been collected during the previous 24-hour period.

Nevertheless, this is not the first study to point to a higher death risk among low salt intakers. A study carried out by Dr. Michael Alderman from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found the same – low salt intake meant a higher risk of death. Dr. Alderman is editor to the American Journal of Hypertension. Alderman used to be an unpaid consultant for the Salt Institute.

Other things happen to our bodies when we consume less salt, Alderman added. There is a risk of increased insulin resistance, for example, a risk factor for heart disease.

On April 11, 2011, the American Heart Institute wrote online:

“Some say that salt is the favorite ingredient of Americans, and many have acquired a taste for a high salt diet. One way to cut back is to skip the table salt. However, most sodium in the diet comes from packaged, processed foods. Eating these foods less often can reduce your intake of sodium and can help lower your blood pressure or prevent HBP from developing in the first place.

In some people, sodium increases blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body, placing an added burden on the heart. If your blood pressure is 120/80 Hg or above, your doctor may recommend a low-salt diet or advise you to avoid salt altogether.”

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), we should not consume more than 1500 mg of sodium a day. The AHA says its recommendations are based on strong science.

The AHA adds that the European study had relatively young, white Europeans with no signs of hypertension or heart disease when the study began. It also added that 8 years is a short period.

Written by Christian Nordqvist