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Take With a Grain of Salt: New Study on Sodium and Health

PHOTO: A new study that discounts the health implications of eating too much salt is leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of many in the medical world. Photo credit: Dubravko Soric/Flickr.
PHOTO: A new study that discounts the health implications of eating too much salt is leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of many in the medical world. Photo credit: Dubravko Soric/Flickr.
January 26, 2015

PHILADELPHIA – Concerns are being raised by a number of health organizations and physicians over new research that downplays the link between high sodium consumption and health problems.

The study found no association between salt intake and risk of heart failure or mortality among the elderly over a 10-year span.

But Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, director of preventive cardiology at the Mayo Clinic, notes that the participants self-reported their results, which he calls unreliable.

"The measurement instrument that is the frequency questionnaire or a survey based on what people eat, to translate that into the actual amount of sodium the person is getting, I would say, is weak at best – the accuracy," he stresses.

Lopez-Jimenez says while new research is always welcome, it remains clear that a high sodium diet increases the risk for high blood pressure, which if uncontrolled can lead to more serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke.

While people should be conscious of not regularly consuming too much salt, Lopez-Jimenez explains that getting too little can also lead to health issues.

"When you restrict the sodium intake too low, what we call the vascular volume shrinks,” he points out. “And when that happens, the body creates a response with catecholamines and adrenaline, and things that might actually increase the risk for cardiovascular events."

Catecholamines are hormones released into the bloodstream when the body is under stress.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nearly one in three adults has high blood pressure, which is a primary or contributing cause in 1,000 deaths in the U.S. each day.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - PA