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Low salt diet may not be so beneficial

So, says an expert panel from the Institute of Medicine and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Gee, what a surprise.

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  1. Wait, what? Does that mean we were lied to about salt, too?

    1. They've been saying for years that sodium really only matters to the relatively small number of people who have sodium-sensitive hypertension. But that's the way Americans are: things are either "bad" or "good"!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        no that's just completely wrong.

        or very right.

        ehh f@%+ it. I hear wolves have been prowling lately. and oh, one of these days I'm going to maybe see one and yell and yell and yell.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Yep. I think I first got that nugget of information in Jeffrey Steingarten's "The Man Who Ate Everything" which I read 15 years ago.

        2. We as Americans, are pretty alramist and black and white. So if a little bit of denial or control is good, then absolute denial and control is better. The concept of proportional response is a lost art.

          I don't think anyone will change, least of all the FDA.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Phaedrus

            I don't think I want the FDA to change its stance on salt/sodium. The agency does regulate labeling with regard to salt and sodium, but has resisted calls to establish limits on the amount of salt in foods -- e.g. as proposed in the previous IOM report from 2010 http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2010/Strat...

            1. When my husband got high blood pressure we cut salt back to almost nothing--it made no difference. Doctor said not to worry about salt--we don't. (And for those who will hop in and talk about all the salt we're getting in prepared foods, we eat almost no prepared/restaurant/fast foods.)

              3 Replies
              1. re: escondido123

                My grandparents had high blood pressure, and there are members of my immediate family who suffer from it.

                And like you, dietary changes made little difference (on the margins it may have). It was more about lifestyle in terms of exercise and weight control, and stress.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  yes - "and stress" <em>stress!</em>

                  it's so much easier to ask a simple internal question than get worked up over something that doesn't matter. I see this all the time and it would be so much easier to just say "so my granddaughter has a tattoo and 3 shades of hair and her best friend is a guy and he's gay, but she works hard, gets good grades and they're good people, so what do I care?"

                  I truly believe self-imposed stress is a far bigger factor than most easily ID'd suspects. (and pass the sea salt)

                2. re: escondido123

                  Salt *lowers* my bp, on the very rare occasions it's not low normal. Salt opens the channels for potassium to enter cells, and potassium lowers bp.

                  Folks don't need to restrict salt so much as they need to eat the foods that are high in minerals/electrolytes.

                3. Old news to me. Did you know that in the 1920's, reputable nutritionists advised that there was no need to eat vegetables? But if you did, you should cook them for a long time to make them digestible, then serve them in a cream sauce to make them healthy!

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: mwhitmore

                    That's not super wrong. I don't know about cooking them for "a long time", but there are certainly antinutrients in vegetables that prevent the proper absorption and digestion of their nutrients, plus all the cellulose, which we can't digest, both of those are broken down in cooking to make them more digestible and useful. And serving them with fat (or cream sauce in this case) DOES make them more healthy, because without fat, your body won't absorb those all important fat soluble vitamins (A, D, and K). That said, even though nothing beats the nutrient density of meat and animal fats, I'd never say we don't need to eat vegetables; they're also very useful for aiding the liver in detoxing and all that jazz.

                    1. re: wapfcat

                      Making them more digestible while leeching veggies of nutrients is the most unhealthy possible thing you can do to them!

                      They're good for you due to the nutrients they contain and the fact that the fiber carbs don't raise your blood sugar post meal due directly to the indigestibility. That's what high fiber foods are recommended for.

                      1. re: mcf

                        and boiled to mush vegetables have no happy colon-blow properties.

                        1. re: mcf

                          How many of those vegetables that are good raw or lightly cooked, are products of modern agriculture, with an emphasis on picking vegetables when young, tender, and sweet?

                          Petite Sweet Peas (year around) are a creation of the frozen food industry. Sweet corn is the result of recent selective breeding. Getting balanced nutrition of out of field corn requires soaking in a chemical solution. Many traditional foods required soaking to remove bitter or acid components (acorns, yuca, oca).

                          Indigestibility may be fine when you can get more than enough calories from other sources. Go ahead and feed those gut bacteria; who cares about the gas they produce. But when you have to hunt or work for your food, having highly digestible food is a good thing.

                          1. re: paulj

                            Not necessarily. You don't want the sugars to enter your bloodstream all at once, quickly if you have work to do. You want it to last for hours without causing you to crash.

                      2. re: mwhitmore

                        Scary as that is, it's practically spa cuisine compared to the tradition of the "beefsteak dinner", a 19th century excess that lasted into the Roaring Twenties. http://mcnyblog.org/2012/12/11/beefst...
                        A piece detailing these dinners begins the New Yorker anthology of food writing, "Secret Ingredients".

                      3. The report itself


                        Some key points:
                        the average US consumption of sodium is 3400 mg/day

                        studies using high blood pressure as a surrogate, have concluded that 2300 mg/day is a good target for the general population, and 1500 mg/day for at risk populations.

                        The committee looked at studies that take a broader measure of health, and concluded that 2300 mg is still a good target. The benefits from going below that are inconclusive, and there is one study (done outside the USA) that concluded that aggressively low salt diets might actually be harmful (at least for that test population).

                        They also found that there is a lot of variability among studies as to how sodium intake is measured, so the actual numbers need to taken 'with a grain of salt'. Individual also differ in how they utilize sodium, so one-size-fits-all recommendations don't work.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: paulj

                          In the US, at least, it's surprisingly hard to limit one's daily intake to 2300 mg/day - not to mention the lower 1500 mg/day. I'm one of those in the "at risk" population who sees a definite benefit from the 1500-2500 mg/day diet, and it's HARD HARD HARD. I really miss convenience food and restaurant meals, but they're a no-go because of the insanely high sodium content, except in a few rare cases.

                          Frankly, there's way too much salt in most restaurant and packaged food. I'm hoping that as boomers age, there'll be more of a demand for low(er) sodium food. Those who want high sodium can always resort to the salt shaker.

                          1. re: AnneInMpls

                            It may be hard, but the better question might be "why limit it to such a level of 2300 mg/day".

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Because it lowers my blood pressure and keeps my ankles and fingers from puffing up. Best of all, I don't have to use any BP medicine - that's worth all the work to me.

                              1. re: AnneInMpls

                                Sorry, didn't mean specifically to mean "you".

                                More of a general question as to why we can extrapolate such a guideline to the general population when it's obviously a very individualized issue.

                                I, for one, for example suffer from low sodium levels even after adding table salt to my canned soups.

                                1. re: AnneInMpls

                                  This topic is more about the broad brush recco, though. Very few folks benefit, and many are harmed, by such severe salt restriction, which raises mortality rates.

                                  If it works for you, that's all you need to know, unless you're low on K and Mag.

                          2. Shelley Wood. Populationwide sodium guidance "makes no sense" in most countries. theheart.org. [Clinical Conditions > Hypertension > Hypertension]; Sep 4, 2013. Accessed at http://www.theheart.org/article/15784... on Sep 5, 2013