No evidence low salt diets prevents heart disease

Salt shakedown

Here’s a little something ripped from the headlines of every major newspaper across the country: “Low-Salt Benefits Questioned.”

It seems that a big-time panel of government scientists has concluded that low-sodium diets are unsupported by research. Which means that current guidelines surrounding salt intake are full of hot air.

I love it. On so many levels. And here’s why…

I have been telling people for years that there is only a small sub-segment of the population (about 5 percent) that has salt sensitive hypertension.

And now, along comes this study that shows there is no evidence that very low salt diets prevent heart disease. They even went so far as to say that there is no evidence that people who already have heart disease or diabetes should cut their sodium intake at all.

Current guidelines recommend a limit of 2,300 mg of salt per day. That’s about a teaspoon.

For people who are 51 or older, are African American, or who have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease (in other words, over half of all Americans), the guidelines call for no more than 1,500 mg per day of sodium.

And finally, the American Heart Association (yes, those dolts again) refuses to change their rigid recommendation that every American stick to this limit, and consume 1,500 mg of salt or less per day.

Not that any of these recommendations are working out so well. Most Americans consume an average of 3,400 mg per day, because processed and packaged foods are packed with sodium.

Perhaps the AHA should recommend that Americans limit their intake of processed foods?  But, oh wait, they can’t do that. Not when so many of these same foods feature the AHA’s own “heart healthy” seal of approval on their packaging.


We love to demonize certain foods and deify others.  And more often than not, we do it without any scientific justification, too. It’s just the American way. And the whole salt debacle is yet another example of this conundrum.

But here’s what bothers me. This is another of those examples where we’ve been following certain recommendations only to find out those recommendations are patently wrong and misguided.

Just like we’ve done with the crusade against fat, we shape public health policies around these “guidelines” that seemingly come out of nowhere. We hammer home these messages to the public, even when they are meaningless…and maybe even harmful.

If I sound angry, it’s because I am. We simply can’t keep chasing our tails. We need to find the truth–or maybe we just have to let the truth we already know out.

Because guess what? I think we do already know it. But, the powers that be are simply unwilling to back down and reshape their dogmatic recommendations that just don’t work.

That’s why I just can’t blame the populace for the state of this country’s health.

Food manufacturers–and this may be the only benefit of the doubt I ever give them–follow the guidelines set out by the government. (Of course, whether or not these two are in cahoots with each other is whole different topic for another day.)

In the end, the public just does what they’re told, too. And what happens? We have a health crisis in the form of the diabesity epidemic to show for it.

In fact, we spent 500 BILLION dollars on diabetes and its complications, last year alone. Pardon the pun, but that’s a whole lot of dough.

Just think of how much good we could have done with that money if we weren’t eating ourselves to death due to ill-conceived nutritional (and ultimately, economic) policies.

And I hate to say it, but until someone, somewhere is willing to relegate political and monetary gain to the backseat where it belongs, things are only going to get much worse from here.

Dooren, Jennifer Corbett. “Low-salt benefits questioned.” Wall Street Journal. 14 May 2013.