Too much, too little sodium is bad for heart, so what’s the Goldilocks amount?


It's hard to win with salt. Too much salt is bad, and now, too little salt may prove to be harmful as well. So what is, as Goldilocks would say, "just right?"

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, people who had high levels of sodium showed an expected higher cardiovascular risk, but what they also found is people at the lower end of the sodium intake scale also had a greater risk - 27 percent increased risk.

The study looked at more than 100,000 people in 17 countries and found that people who consumed between 3,000 and 6,000 mg of salt a day had the least risk for cardiovascular issues.

"There is a sweet spot for what the optimum sodium intake is," said Salim Yusuf, senior author of the paper. "The message is very simple: Moderation in salt intake. Avoid high and low levels."

The good news is, though, that researchers found about 75 percent of Americans intake the appropriate amount of sodium per day.  

This is contrary to the recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and prevention and the American Heart Association for consumers to limit their sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day. According to the researchers, only 4 percent of respondents took in the federal recommended sodium levels.

Elliott Antman, president of the American Heart Association, said there were flaws in the study that cause doubt as to the reliability of the findings.

Experts say that the majority of sodium Americans intake is from packaged foods and restaurant meals, so it is important for people to read food labels to understand what they're consuming.

Sodium has been linked with high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart attacks, stroke and heart failure.

The current guidelines stem from short-term studies with people who have already been diagnosed with hypertension or borderline high blood pressure. The FDA said it will review all the studies related to sodium intake.

However, there has not been a study to link the benefit of having a sodium intake of less than 2,300. Antman said, however, that conducting a long-term randomized trial would be challenging.

Other than that, there have been many studies, including a recent study that shows that a reduction in salt intake in the population all together has led to a lower rate of death from stroke and heart disease.

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