Dietary guideline on sodium puts Americans at risk

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture may increase health risks, including obesity, by ignoring sound science as they announce recommendations to reduce sodium consumption to 1,500 mg per day, says the Salt Institute.

Salt Institute President Lori Roman said her chief concern is the potential harm from unintended consequences. “It is reckless for the government to risk the health of Americans by relying on substandard levels of evidence and refusing to consider new evidence,” stated Roman.

The rationale behind the recommendation is purportedly blood pressure reduction, however the Salt Institute points to other published evidence. “While no one doubts that a small percentage of our population may experience modest blood pressure declines from salt reduction, it has not been scientifically established that a population-wide reduction will benefit overall health. Research indicates health risks for some on low salt diets, including higher risk of heart attacks. And new research shows that not a single modern society consumes such a low level of salt as that recommended (less than 4 grams of salt per day). This recommendation is essentially an unauthorized massive clinical trial using 300 million Americans as guinea pigs,” said Roman.

Recent research involving data collected from more than 19,000 individuals in 33 countries has demonstrated that healthy humans, all around the world, consume sodium within a relatively narrow range (2700 mg- 4900 mg sodium) – a range controlled by a number of physiological mechanisms. The DGAC recommended level of 1500 mg is drastically lower. The Salt Institute cites this research as proof that these mechanisms cannot and should not be modified by public health policies that try to override the bodies’ biological signals for nutrients

Most nutritionists agree that reduced sodium in food preparations will very likely increase the obesity crisis because individuals will consume more calories just to satisfy their innate sodium appetite and their search for eating satisfaction.

Available peer-reviewed evidence suggests that reduced sodium levels increase the risk of negative cardiovascular consequences, cognitive impairment, adverse neurodevelopment in premature children and increased attention deficits, and unsteadiness and falls in the elderly, according to Salt Institute Vice President of Science and Research Mort Satin. “This is why the Institute of Medicine ‘Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake’ report states that each step in their step-down sodium reduction process be accompanied by a check for “early warnings of any unintended consequences,” he stated.

Satin says previous Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committees made recommendations that were confidently portrayed as evidence-based, yet a short time later were forced to be withdrawn when the published science, as well as the impact of the recommendations, proved the Guidelines to be wrong. “The Salt Institute proposes that the Committee will need to step back from its restrictive guidance on salt just as science has already required it to do on guidelines for fat. The Salt Institute has been on record for years asking HHS for a large scale randomized controlled trial to determine the impact of salt on health outcomes of Americans,” stated Satin.

Salt is made up of sodium and chloride, both nutrients that are essential to life. Sodium is critically involved in maintaining the osmotic balance of body fluids; it is required for all nerve impulse transmission, including those from the brain; it controls taste, smell and tactile processes and helps muscles, including the heart, to work. The chloride portion of salt is essential for the digestion process; it is required for absorbing potassium and preserving the acid-base balance in the body and is essential in eliminating carbon dioxide from our tissues.

According to Roman, perhaps the greatest failure of the Dietary Guidelines is their priority focus on single nutrients rather than the whole diet. “Concerns over blood pressure would be better addressed if Americans would eat more salads, vegetables and fruits. Italians consume more salt than Americans yet they have better cardiovascular health because they eat a well balanced diet. They use salt to make healthy foods more delicious,” said Roman.

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