Salt is a major part of the American diet, however, consumption of sodium should be limited to less than 1,500 milligrams per day, even for healthy individuals, according to new studies and the revised American Heart Association presidential advisory, published in the journal Circulation.

The recommendations surfaced after researchers analyzed a number of recent animal, laboratory, observational and clinical trials, which confirmed the American Heart Association’s 2011 advisory which stated that humans should only consume 1,500 mg of salt (sodium) each day. This limitation is associated with a lower chance of developing cardiovascular disease, such as stroke. A 2011 study said that sodium levels among U.S. adults have been linked to higher mortality rates.

Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association explained:

“Our recommendation is simple in the sense that it applies to the entire U.S population, not just at-risk groups. Americans of all ages, regardless of individual risk factors, can improve the heart health and reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by restricting their daily consumption of sodium to less that 1,500 milligrams.”

According to the report, certain studies have brought about mixed feelings and beliefs regarding the appropriate amount of daily sodium intake.

Lead author of the study, Paul K. Whelton, M.D., M.Sc. and Show Chwan, Professor of Global Public Health in the Tulan University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, La commented:

“People should not be swayed by calls for a change in sodium intake recommendations based on findings from recent studies reporting that a reduction in sodium consumption does not improve cardiovascular health. Our detailed review of these studies identified serious methodological weaknesses, which limit the value of these reports in setting or revisiting sodium intake policy. Our focus should be on finding effective ways to implement, not chance, the existing American Heart Association policy on sodium intake.”

Lowering the consumption of sodium can dramatically help prevent high blood pressure, a condition which affects over 7 million adults in the United States and is a large predictor of cardiovascular disease. However, according to the recent report, most children and adults have much higher sodium intake levels than recommended; most people consume more than 3,400 mg per day.

A study published in Radiology linked multiple sclerosis with the build up of sodium in the brain.

Only people who have been told by their doctors, usually those with rare disorders, should consume more than 1,500 mg per day.

Today’s society makes it difficult to consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day, because salt hides in processed and prepared foods, making it virtually impossible to keep track of sodium levels.

The American Heart Association recommends that labeling be improved in order to help inform consumers of their intake levels, as well as limiting sodium levels in all foods fresh, prepared and processed available to children and sold to government programs and businesses.

The researchers believe that in order to prevent cardiovascular disease, a thorough approach to maintaining health is necessary, including maintaining healthy body weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, as well as as exercising, eating healthy, and staying away from tobacco products.

The American Heart Association’s president, Donna Arnett, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., concluded:

“An integral component of our campaign to improve the nation’s cardiovascular health by 20 percent by 2020 is a nationwide decrease in sodium consumption. It will require a joint effort between health organizations, policy makers and the food industry to achieve this goal by 20 percent by 2020 is a nationwide decrease in sodium consumption. It will require a joint effort between health organizations, policy makers and the food industry to achieve this goal by creating an environment conducive to helping all Americans make healthy, low-sodium food choices.”

Written by Christine Kearney