Low salt intake linked to increased risk of heart failure

We all know it’s important to limit our sodium intake in order to combat high blood pressure and prevent heart disease, but a new Canadian study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that severely restricting  dietary sodium intake may actually be a bad thing for your health.

For the study, researchers at McMaster Unversity looked at over 29,000 people at increased risk of heart disease from clinical trials conducted between 2001 and 2008. The daily sodium intake of the participants was estimated from a morning urine sample.

During the follow-up period, researchers found that a higher intake of sodium was associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular events. And people with a very low salt intake faced a higher risk of hospitalization for congestive heart failure and cardiovascular death.

Participants who had a moderate intake of sodium at 3 to 6 grams per day had the lowest risk of heart failure, heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers say the findings challenge current guidelines for salt intake, which recommend less than 2.3 grams (or 2,300 mg) per day. (This is the equivalent of about 1 teaspoon.) Canadian adults consume about 3,400 mg of sodium per day.

“Our study confirms the association between high-sodium intake and cardiovascular disease. Our findings highlight the importance of reducing salt intake in those consuming high-salt diets and the need for reducing sodium content in manufactured foods that are high in salt,” Dr. Salim Yusuf, study co-leader, was quoted in a McMaster news release.

“However, for those with moderate (average) intake, whether further reduction of salt in the diet will be beneficial is an open question. We believe that large clinical trials are the most reliable way to determine if reducing sodium intake to lower levels is of benefit.”

Sources: The Canadian Press, Journal of the American Medical Association, McMaster University news release, Postmedia News

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ 4kodiak

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