The Uneasy Case Against Salt: Part Two

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans was developed by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. They say that dietary sodium intake should be reduced to less than 2,300 milligrams per day for the general population, and to less than 1,500 milligrams per day for African Americans, people over 50, and people who have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. This blog has been critical of that determination since early 2009, with posts on the Salt Police, Rejoinder on Salt, The Other Side of the Salt Debate, and The Uneasy Case Against Salt.

The Centers for Disease Control asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to examine the literature on dietary sodium intake and its effect on health outcomes in the general U.S. population. The May 14, 2013, summary of the IOM consensus report concludes that there is no evidentiary basis for the conclusion that sodium intakes below 2,300 milligrams per day either “increase or decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, or all-cause mortality in the general U.S. population.”

The committee did find some evidence suggesting that sodium intake levels in ranges from 1,500 to 2,300 mg/day may have adverse health consequences for those with diabetes, kidney disease, or cardiovascular disease.

Noting that there is evidence to support a “positive relationship between higher levels of sodium intake and risk of CVD” via the effect of salt intake on the blood pressure of people who have high blood pressure, the IOM calls for “more randomized controlled trials.” The press release for the report says that the report does not establish a health intake range for salt because “variability in the methodologies used among the studies would have precluded it.”

Comments (12)

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  1. Joel says:

    It is interesting how people are trying to use nutritional science to demonize certain food industries. The Cato institute published a great article on this (pg. 8):

  2. Tomas says:

    This is not hard. People, avoid processed foods with excessive sodium amounts. Anything in excess is bad for your health, even water (although most people don’t intake enough water). Once we can scientifically determine the exact amounts for limits, great, but we still know that excessive amounts is not good for you.

    • Craig says:

      I don’t know if you can argue that anything in excess is bad. Because excess is subjective based on people biological make-up and their current condition of health and what their body needs to thrive. All of those variables are different for different people.

      • Miguel says:

        Yeah, but Tomas’ point is that every person should not eat in excess, even if their standard of excess is different the principle stays the same.

      • Tomas says:

        Yes, they are different, and how does that pertain at all to the argument of excess? Regardless of what is subjective or not, that person will know what is excessive if they start paying attention to their body and learning about basic nutrition. It’s not that hard, people.

        • Tomas says:

          Although, Craig, I understand your point about each organism having different tolerance and assimilation levels to different foods and nutrients. But my point is that every organism will still regardless reach of point of excess.

      • JD says:

        I don’t know if it can be subjective because opinion doesn’t reflect science, although I think I know what you mean. We all have different tolerances for things so we shouldn’t set uniform standards. But, Tomas’ point is correct, excess beyond your threshold is bad, but in moderation most things are fine.

    • JD says:

      Right, knowing the exact amount won’t help all the much.

  3. Jeff says:

    At least IOM is being honest about their scientific findings and not jumping on the bandwagon. If there truly isn’t real evidentiary proof, it should be promoted as fact.

  4. Bart says:

    I don’t know how you can recommend a set amount of dietary sodium without taking into account e.g. climate and activity.

    But wouldn’t it be funny if all of the benefits ascribed to exercise were found to be a result of sodium loss via perspiration?

  5. Buster says:

    This is an example of how government guidelines sometimes take on a life of their own for reasons that have nothing to do with science.