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New Salt Study Questions if a Low-Sodium Diet is Really Necessary

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May 14, 2013 07:32 PM EDT
Salt
A salt shaker is seen in a restaurant in this file photo. (Photo : Reuters)

The average American consumes more than 3,400 mg of sodium a day, which is the same as 1 ½ teaspoons. Doctors have long touted the need to reduce sodium intake, but now a new study says there is actually no evidence to back up the benefits of a low-sodium diet.

Reducing salt consumption below the currently recommended 2,300 milligrams - about 1 1/2 teaspoons- per day maybe unnecessary, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) said in a report released Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

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The study said the scientific evidence doesn't support the 1,500 milligram recommendation for people who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney failure. More research is needed to explore this recommendation.

The report referred to several other studies that concluded eating the lowest levels might actually harm certain people. The IOM, which advises the government about health, urged in its new salt study that more research needs to be done to find the best target range for salt intake.

"These new studies support previous findings that reducing sodium from very high intake levels to moderate levels improves health," said committee chair Brian Strom, the George S. Pepper professor of public health and preventive medicine at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine. "But they also suggest that lowering sodium intake too much may actually increase a person's risk of some health problems."

The salt industry, in contrast, has long opposed the push for sharp sodium reductions, and welcomed the report.

"There is no scientific justification for population-wide sodium reduction to such low levels, and the recognition by the IOM experts that such low levels may cause harm may help steer overzealous organizations away from reckless recommendations," said Morton Satin of the Salt Institute.

Meanwhile, groups like the American Heart Association (AHA) support reducing that number. In 2011, the AHA called for a reduction in daily consumption, recommending all Americans eat no more than 1,500 mg a day.

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