TUESDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- The prevailing wisdom that
high salt intake raises cardiovascular risks is being challenged by
a new European study that suggests the opposite.
The Polish and Belgian researchers acknowledge that all of the
study volunteers were younger and white, and that may have skewed
Analyzing urine sodium tests from 3,681 participants with no
previous cardiovascular disease, the scientists found that lower
sodium excretion was associated with an increased risk of
heart-related deaths and higher sodium excretion was not linked to
increased risks for high blood pressure or complications from heart
The study is published in the May 4 issue of the
Journal of the American Medical Association.
Study author Dr. Katarzyna Stolarz-Skrzypek said she and her
colleagues were surprised at the results, but noted they mirrored
previous findings by U.S. researchers in the National Health and
Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES).
The nearly 3,000 participants in the U.S. studies, however, had
been instructed to avoid high-salt foods for four to five days
before sodium excretion measurements were taken. Participants in
Stolarz-Skrzypek's study were not asked to cut salt intake
"Our findings do not support the current recommendations of a generalized and indiscriminate reduction of salt intake at the population level," said Stolarz-Skrzypek, a cardiologist at Jagiellonian University Medical College in Krakow, Poland. "We believe that the consumers should be informed about risk related to low- or high-salt diet and be free to choose the consumed food. However, our findings do not negate the blood pressure-lowering effects of a dietary salt reduction in hypertensive patients."
Over a 24-hour period, participants -- whose average age was
nearly 41 -- collected their own urine in a container for testing.
Over a median follow-up period of about eight years, cardiovascular
deaths increased among those with the lowest amounts of sodium in
Among 2,096 participants followed for only 6.5 years, increasing
sodium levels were not associated with high blood pressure, a
finding that contradicts many American studies.
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill
Hospital in New York City, said she was "upset" by the research and
feels its limitations should prevent it from being taken seriously
in the United States.
"The results are just so shocking," Steinbaum said. But, "this was a strictly European population, not our melting-pot-of-America mix. So this isn't exactly pertaining to our population."
Stolarz-Skrzypek conceded that the number of cardiovascular
events among such a young study population might be small
regardless of salt intake and that a single 24-hour collection of
urine might be insufficient to characterize an individual's
habitual salt use.
"Our study included only white Europeans, and its findings therefore cannot be extrapolated to Asian or, in particular, black individuals, who might be more salt-sensitive than white people," she said.
A January advisory issued by American Heart Association
President Dr. Ralph Sacco noted that the health advantages of lower
salt intake have been proven in an ever-expanding amount of
"A compelling and still-increasing body of evidence supports the imperative for population-wide sodium reduction as an integral component of public health efforts to prevent [cardiovascular disease], stroke and kidney disease," Sacco said. "The potential public health benefits are enormous and extend to virtually all Americans."
Harvard Health has more on
salt intake and health risks.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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