Should we all be avoiding salt?

It seems like every day we hear another recommendation from “on high” that everyone should reduce their salt (sodium) intake. Unfortunately, these recommendations seem misguided and may be dangerous. I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of the government or anyone else telling me what to eat, but I might be able to accept it if the experts weren’t wrong so often. In the case of salt, a recent study of patients with heart failure showed that in this group, severe salt restriction lead to early death. The group that was put on severe sodium restriction was actually more than twice as likely to die during the study.
If this was an isolated finding, I might be able to understand, but there is very little scientific evidence that salt restriction leads to a longer life. In fact a recent editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Reducing Dietary Sodium. The Case for  Caution (JAMA. 2010;303(5):448-449) pointed this out.   Dr. Michael Alderman noted that most studies of salt intake and health have not been very scientific and the available studies have had mixed results. Some studies show that cutting salt may reduce some particular health problems while other studies seem to show that salt restriction may be harmful. See Normal-Sodium Diet Compared with Low Sodium Diet in Compensated Congestive Heart Failure: is Sodium an Old Enemy or a New Friend?

Dr. Michael Alderman added, “based on what is known, the prudent course of action may well be caution.” I completely agree. There are probably some people who do need to restrict their salt, but let’s wait until we have proof before we make any blanket recommendations.

Micheal Doyle, MD Michael E. Doyle, MD, is a board-certified family physician with nearly two decades of clinical experience. At Darien Integrative Medicine in Darien, Connecticut, he combines his extensive experience in both conventional and alternative medicine to offer his patients uniquely safe and effective care.

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