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To Salt Or Not To Salt: That Is Really Not The Question
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To Salt Or Not to Salt: That is Really Not the Question

A small, very limited study led by Exeter University Professor, Rod Taylor has set off a firestorm by nutritional experts from all over the world. His study, conducted by reviewing data from a number of other sources led him to conclude that while reducing salt intake may decrease the blood pressure slightly, it did not actually lower the risk of developing heart disease or reduce the risk of premature death. In his study, Taylor concluded that there was no long term, heart health benefit in reducing salt intake.

That thinking, particularly from such a limited study is being met with outright outrage and criticism from the nutritional world. Simon Capewell, a professor of Clinical Epidemiology at Liverpool University called the study “inconclusive”. A second nutritional expert called it a “suprisingly poor piece of work.”.

Most countries of the developed world have some mandates related to the level of salt that is considered optimal for the adult diet and most if not all are in the process of further reducing their stated intakes. Britain, for instance is working to make the suggested intake for adults 3 grams by the year 2025.That number is less than what is currently listed as a healthy number in the United States. Guidelines there suggest having 2.3 grams or less of salt for adults without any specific health risks and less than 1.5 grams for adults who have high blood pressure, certain kidney diseases and for those who have heart disease. Others who may be told to eat a lower salt diet are those who have increased risk factors for heart or kidney disease. Among these risk factors are obesity and family history.

The World Health Organization calls a reduced salt intake one of its ten “best buys” to reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases, including heart, kidney and blood pressure.

Food and nutrition experts in Australia have said that this study highlights one of the major problems with nutritional studies in general- the focus on one single ingredient which can have a different impact on so many different situations. This overly generalized and single minded type of study is never helpful and often can cause more problems than they solve, create more questions than they actually answer.

Taylor concedes that the scope of the study was very limited and would like to do it again, this time expanding his study’s criteria to look at data from at least 18,000 people. He would also like to see the study become a more long term one, to see if the heart benefit of lowered salt is realized somewhere down the road or not.

Until a more comprehensive study can be done for this aspect, other studies will continue. Salt cannot be completely eliminated from the diet, not only because it is such a common ingredient in so many food products and items, but because it is actually beneficial to some degree.


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