Yesterday, an alphabet soup of federal agencies including the FDA, CDC, and USDA held an all-day joint public meeting on approaches to reduce sodium in the American diet. The results of this meeting will inform possible future action by the feds to reduce how much salt we consume. The only problem? According to a new study, that reduction could actually be harmful to our health.
Writing in the American Journal of Hypertension, researchers for the respected Cochrane Collaborative report that their analysis of data from more than 167 studies finds that cutting back on sodium may not have a substantial health benefit, and could even be harmful. Only 1 percent of people who had normal blood pressure and 3.5 percent of people with high blood pressure were helped by eating less than 2,800 milligrams of sodium a day.
These numbers seem even more inconsequential when compared to the percentage of people on lower-sodium diets who experienced negative effects. Compared to people who were eating more than 3,450 milligrams of sodium (comparable to levels in the average American diet), those on the lower-sodium diets had a 2.5 percent increase in cholesterol and a 7 percent increase in blood triglycerides. (High levels of triglyceride and cholesterol are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.)
Study researcher Niels A. Graudal, MD, told WebMD that “it is likely that reduced salt intake does not have a beneficial effect. On the contrary the net effect may be harmful.” No kidding.
This isn’t the first time concerns have been raised. Reacting to the Big Apple’s nanny-state plan to reduce sodium by 25 percent by 2014, the editor of the American Journal of Hypertension deemed population-wide sodium tinkering “an experiment on a whole population.” Given this latest research, broadly lowering the amount of sodium in Americans’ daily diets could be not only reckless, but dangerous.
The stated primary purpose of the joint meeting between the FDA and others is to listen to the opinions of interested parties. That will no doubt include crazed activists who think salt is “the deadly white powder you already snort.” Hopefully saner voices prevail.