In a recent Scrubbing In blog post about sodium, I shared American Heart Association (AHA) recommendations and U.S. Dietary Guidelines indicating Americans should limit sodium intake as part of a healthy diet.
Recently, articles in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) raised new questions about whether general recommendations for low-sodium diets are appropriate and safe for everyone.
Subsequent news coverage of the NEJM articles show there is clear disagreement over the meaning of some of the study findings. Some have indicated general recommendations for low-sodium diets are not needed for many people. Elsewhere, the risk of low-sodium diets has been highlighted. Others disagree, focusing on the health risks of high sodium diets.
Clearly, it’s controversial.
When the studies were published, an editorial in the same NEJM issue recommended further, high quality research be done on this topic. More research might help clear up confusion, but most studies take significant time and resources, so I don’t expect to see new answers in the immediate future. As of today, there have been no changes in the AHA or U.S. government general dietary sodium recommendations. But guidelines do change, so I will keep my eyes open.
So, how do you interpret and apply information about how much sodium you should eat when the experts don’t all agree? The answer likely will be different depending on factors such as age and any individual health problems or risk factors you have. Discuss any questions or concerns you have with your health care provider to get advice tailored to you. This is especially important if you have been advised to follow a low-sodium diet or received other instructions about your sodium consumption.
Here are a few other things to consider:
- The average American age 2 and older consumes over 3,400 mg of sodium per day.
- High dietary sodium has been linked to higher blood pressure readings in several studies.
- In general, eating more sodium increases blood pressure more as people get older and in people who already have high blood pressure.
- Sodium is not the only nutrient that affects blood pressure. Getting enough potassium in your diet has been reported to have a good effect on blood pressure.
- Registered Dietitians are professionals qualified to work with people on individual nutrition-related goals, in an effort to create an appealing and healthful diet.