Benefits of Low-Sodium Diets Questioned
November 10, 2011

Benefits of Low-Sodium Diets Questioned

A new study, published online in the American Journal of Hypertension on Wednesday, has raised questions about the health benefits of low-sodium diets.

In fact, according to CBS News reporter Ryan Jaslow, the study found that cutting back on salt could actually raise multiple risk factors for heart disease, including cholesterol levels. In fact, the research discovered that, while cutting back on dietary salt lowered blood pressure, it also resulted in an average cholesterol increase of 2.5% and a 7% spike in triglycerides.

According to Telegraph Science Correspondent Nick Collins, the study, which was the work of researchers from Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, involved analyzing 167 different studies where subjects reduced sodium intake by a "much greater" level than most health guidelines suggest.

In addition to a 3.5% average decrease in blood pressure levels, it led to the cholesterol and triglyceride level increases, while also leading the kidneys to produce more salt-regulating enzymes and hormones. That leads the body to retain more salt, which could also be considered "harmful for cardiovascular health," the researchers said, according to Jaslow.

"We know that a decrease in blood pressure would probably improve or decrease the risk of cardiovascular death but, on the other hand, an increase in [cholesterol] would increase the risk of cardiovascular death," Dr. Niels A. Graudal, who headed up the new study, told's Anne Harding on Wednesday. "It's likely that these two antagonistic effects will out-balance each other, so there will be no net effect of sodium reduction on people with normal blood pressure."

"In my opinion, people should generally not worry about their salt intake," Graudal, senior consultant in internal medicine and rheumatology at Copenhagen University Hospital, added in a separate interview with Amanda Gardner of HealthDay.

Graudal told Harding that, based on the results of his study, those who consume what he refers to as a "reasonable" amount of sodium each day (2,400 to 3,600 mg per day) should be less concerned with cutting salt levels and more worried about other risk factors, including quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, and losing weight if necessary.

Not all experts agreed with the Denmark study's findings, however.

"We eat a lot of sodium -- way too much -- and I don't think it's going to hurt anybody to lower sodium in the current American diet," American Heart Association spokesperson and Pennsylvania State University nutrition professor Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton told

"The question is not 'should' we reduce salt intake, but 'how'," added Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular medicine and chairman of the World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) who told Reuters reporter Kate Kelland that he strongly disagreed with the study's assertions, claiming that Graudal's research "clearly shows once again that decreasing salt intake lowers blood pressure."


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