Our bodies need some sodium to regulate blood pressure and keep muscles and nerves working efficiently, but too much dietary salt  is linked to high blood pressure,  stroke, heart  and kidney disease. A new McMaster University Study suggests that people with heart disease who consume the low levels of salt recommended in current sodium guidelines, appear to be at higher risk of death from heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular causes than people who consume more moderate amounts of salt. The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found people who consumed moderate amounts of salt were associated with the lowest risk of cardiovascular complications.

Health Canada recommends for adults 1,500 mg of sodium daily with a maximum limit of 2,300 mg per day. The average Canadian’s sodium intake is estimated to be 3,400 mg per day, according to Health Canada, primarily from commercially prepared foods. They consider this too high. But McMaster researchers found those who consumed a moderate amount of sodium–between 4,000 to 5,990 mg of sodium daily–were associated with the lowest risk of cardiovascular complications.

The findings call into question current guidelines for salt intake, which recommend less than  2,300 mg per day. Reducing salt is still very important in people consuming more than 6,000 or 7,000 milligrams of sodium per day, said the study’s authors

Clarifying the optimal daily intake of sodium is particularly important in patients with established heart disease, as they may be especially vulnerable to the cardiovascular effects of very high- and low-salt intake and are most likely to receive recommendations on restricting sodium in their diets, the authors concluded.

Research will continue into guidelines for salt intake and the long-term benefits of a low-salt diet.

- Charmaine Gooden

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